Vanderbilt rolls Redbirds in opener

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Top-ranked Vanderbilt used an impressive outing from starter Carson Fulmer along with a big night from the offense to roll to a 16-1 series-opening win over Illinois State Friday at Hawkins Field.

Fulmer (2-0) was on from the opening pitch, attacking the Redbirds’ (4-3) lineup and pounding the strike zone. The right-hander struck out the side in the first and second inning, eventually striking out eight of the first nine Redbirds he faced. Mason Snyder singled to open the fourth for Illinois State’s first hit of the game but Fulmer responded with a pair of strikeouts and a ground ball out to end the inning. Fulmer notched his career-best 11th strikeout in the fifth to open the frame and worked around a jam to strand runners on the corners. He then finished his night with a quick sixth, getting a double play to end the inning. The junior’s six innings were his most this year and the second time in three outings he has not allowed a run. He became the first Commodores’ pitcher this season to strikeout at least 10 with his career night.

While Fulmer was rolling on the mound, the Commodores’ (7-2) bats were rolling up runs and hits. Vandy took the lead in the third with a five-run inning before putting the game away with an impressive 10-run inning in the sixth. In the sixth nine straight Commodores reached base safely either via a walk or a hit. Freshman Jeren Kendall led off with a walk and was followed by a walk to Kyle Smith. Bryan Reynolds quickly cashed in on the opportunity with a two-run double. Back-to-back singles from Rhett Wiseman and Dansby Swanson plated another run. The rally continued with a two-run double from Penn Murfee and a two-run single from Will Toffey. Reynolds’ second hit of the inning tacked on another run and was followed by a RBI-single from Wiseman and RBI-double from Swanson to cap the rally. When the dust settled, the Commodores had the team’s first 10-run inning since last April against Middle Tennessee State.

An amazing 11 Commodores registered hits in the win leading to a team season-best 18. Wiseman’s career-high four hits led all players and matched Swanson’s team-high. Reynolds, Murfee and Toffey all drove in three runs with Swanson knocking in two. Freshmen Joey Mundy and Aubrey McCarty picked up the first hits of their careers with singles and McCarty – a switch pitcher – pitched the ninth to record his first career inning on the mound, picking up a pair of strikeouts.

The Vanderbilt offense has exploded for 42 runs in three games this week after scoring 26 runs in the first six games of the season. The Commodores are hitting .367 with 15 extra-base hits in the team’s last three games.

The Redbirds were limited to just three hits in the game with Vandy pitchers recording a season-best 16 strikeouts. Illinois State starter Will Headean (1-1) took the loss allowing five runs on six hits over three innings.

The Commodores and Redbirds play tomorrow at 1 p.m. with lefty John Kilichowski getting the ball for the home team against Illinois State southpaw Jacob Hendren.