NASHVILLE, Tenn. — All looked good for the Saint Mary’s baseball team through the first 5 1/2 innings Friday in its series opener at Vanderbilt, but a flurry of action in the final 3 1/2 frames led to the Commodores coming all the way back from a six-run deficit en route to a 9-8 non-conference win at Hawkins Field.
Saint Mary’s starter Cameron Neff cruised through the first five innings, only allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts. He was made even more comfortable when the Gaels’ offense put him up 6-0 by the fifth and 7-1 at the end of the top of the sixth.
But Vanderbilt (10-5) took advantage of six walks in just the sixth and seventh innings to score eight runs and make its comeback. All six walks were issued in five pitches or less. Four of them would come around to score. Two RBI hits also helped the Commodores’ rally. Julian Infante’s two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the sixth gave Vandy its first lead at 8-7.
Saint Mary’s (9-4) kept pace in the late innings with a single run in the top of the seventh to tie it at 8-8. The Gaels left runners in scoring position in each of the last three innings – twice on third base – falling short of bringing home the tying run each time.
All nine Saint Mary’s starters had base hits. The Gaels collected 13 hits, including four doubles. Zach Kirtley led all players going 3 for 5 day with a double, three RBIs and a run scored. Brett Rasso had three stolen bases, the most for Saint Mary’s since Joey Fiske had three on Feb. 20 of last year.
Saint Mary’s beat up Vanderbilt’s No. 1 starter Kyle Wright for six runs (five earned) on 10 hits. Wright was named a preseason All-American by multiple outlets and was listed as the No. 5 college prospect for the 2017 MLB Draft. But Wright could not make it out of the fifth inning versus the Gaels despite seven strikeouts to just one walk.
Conner Loeprich threw two shutout innings in relief to give the Gaels a chance in the late innings. Loeprich lowered his season ERA to 1.12 with the outing, striking out one and only allowing one hit. Collin Snider (2-1) got the win for Vanderbilt despite giving up the tying run in the top of the seventh.
The series continues at 9 a.m. PST on Saturday. The game was moved up from noon PST with weather expected later in the day. The game will be televised live on SEC Network Plus. Fans can find all coverage links on SMCGaels.com.
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