Vandy rallies by Western Kentucky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – No. 1 Vanderbilt rallied from a five-run deficit on Wednesday night to win 10-6 at Hawkins Field.

The Commodores (6-2) struggled through the first four innings as the Hilltoppers (2-5) built a 6-1 lead. The Dores started the come back in the fifth when Jeren Kendall tripled to center field and scored on Liam Sabino’s grounder to shortstop. Vandy added two more in the sixth after Rhett Wiseman led off with a double followed by a Dansby Swanson walk. A sacrifice fly from Zander Wiel and a clutch, two-out RBI-single through the right side from Will Toffey cut the deficit to two runs.

The game turned the Commodores’ way in the seventh inning when Kendall worked a leadoff walk and stole second base. A pair of walks loaded the bases in front of Wiel with two outs as Western Kentucky went to the bullpen for pitcher Tate Glasscock. Wiel completed the comeback on a 2-2 pitch with a towering grand slam off the left field scoreboard to put the Commodores in front with his first home run of the season. The grand slam was the first for a Commodore since Vince Conde’s slam against Louisville at Hawkins Field last May. The Dores added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth with RBI-singles from Swanson and Ro Coleman.

The Hilltoppers took advantage of a pair of infield singles in the first and a pair of errors in the second inning to jump on the Commodores early. VU starter Ryan Johnson yielded a one-out single before giving up back-to-back infield singles to load the bases. Danny Hudzina followed with a single off the glove of Will Toffey at third for the first two runs of the game. Errors by Karl Ellison and Johnson in the second helped spark a three-run inning for the Hilltoppers. After the second inning, however, Vanderbilt’s pitching settled in and allowed only one hit the rest of the way, including four relievers combining for four no-hit innings.

Philip Pfeifer was the beneficiary of Wiel’s grand slam, earning the win out of the bullpen with his perfect seventh inning. Jordan Sheffield followed in the eighth by striking out the side and Ben Bowden worked a quick 1-2-3 ninth to finish off Vandy’s sixth win of the season. In his first career start, Johnson allowed six runs, three earned, on seven hits over five innings.

Nine different Commodores had one hit in the victory with Wiel’s being the biggest. Reynolds, Swanson, and Kendall all scored two runs each with Wiel matching a career-best with five RBI.

Anderson Miller paced WKU with three runs, two hits and a pair of walks. Brennan Pearson took the loss after giving up three runs on no hits and three walks. Western Kentucky starter Ryan Thurston allowed four runs on three hits over five innings.

Vanderbilt returns to action Friday afternoon against Illinois State at 4 p.m. at Hawkins Field to open a three-game weekend series.