Tim Corbin said his team recognized the quality of hitters in the Tennessee Tech lineup.
The Commodores might not have scoured the statistics and discovered the Golden Eagles lead the Ohio Valley Conference in batting average, slugging percentage, runs and RBI. But they knew Tech would take its best hack.
What the they didn’t want to do was help out the Golden Eagles.
Tech pounced on nine walks and piled up 13 hits after getting ahead in the count numerous times. Third-ranked Vanderbilt quickly fell into a six-run hole and failed to fully recover in a 10-9 loss on Tuesday night at Hawkins Field and snap a 14-game winning streak.
Vanderbilt loaded the bases in each of the last three innings but never broke through with a big inning. Vince Conde grounded into a double play to end a game that lasted 3:45.
“When you give a hitting team like them those opportunities then they’ll capitalize on them,” Corbin, Vanderbilt's coach, said. “They made us pay for it and that’s what good teams do.”
Vanderbilt (33-5) surrendered seven hits and six runs in the first three innings and only put Tech (27-10) down in order once – in the ninth inning. Starter Tyler Ferguson (3-1) lasted just 1.1 innings, allowing three runs on five hits.
Dylan Bosheers and Michael Morris each had three hits for the Golden Eagles, who drove in eight runs with two outs. On five of the RBIs, Tech hitters got ahead in the count.
“They deserved to win [Tuesday], they did,” Corbin said. “I think if you pitch in the fashion that we did – and I’m not taking anything away from them – but I thought we got ourselves in too many advantage counts, or disadvantage counts from a pitching perspective.”
Vanderbilt charged back, scoring five runs in the third and fourth innings. Freshman designated hitter Rhett Wiseman hit the second and third home runs of his career – slamming a solo shot to get the scoring going and cranking a two-run shot off the left field scoreboard to cut the deficit to 6-5. Wiseman drove in three runs and Connor Harrell also homered and had two RBIs. Vanderbilt actually out-hit Tech 14-13 and only left six runners on base.
Tech regained momentum by scoring two runs each in the sixth and eight innings for much-needed insurance and a 10-6 lead.
“It is a tough loss,” Wiseman said. “Right from the beginning we put ourselves in a hole. Against teams like that, who go out and make plays and hit the ball hard – they had 13 hits and no errors – you can’t really put yourself in a hole like that. We fought back hard there at the end. But some of the mistakes we made earlier we couldn’t overcome.”
It was only the third home loss of the season for the Commodores, who had won 11 straight at Hawkins Field. Tennessee Tech hadn’t defeated Vanderbilt since 2002 and this, marked the highest-ranked team the Golden Eagles have ever beaten.
“I don’t know if concern is the right word because you have faith in your guys and what our guys are doing,” Tech coach Matt Bragga said. “Yet at the same point, you just respect that team so much you’re just glad to get out of here with a W.”
Both sides talked afterwards about a possible rematch.
Vanderbilt appears a lock to host an NCAA Regional. With a 15-3 league record, Tech is currently second in the OVC behind Belmont but could punch its postseason ticket by winning the conference tournament. If so, the Golden Eagles might get sent back down I-40 to Nashville. And Vanderbilt would gladly welcome them.
“They had a good day,” Wiseman said. “I think if we play them nine times out of 10 it is the other way around. I’d love to play them [again]. We really want to see them later. A team like that leaves a really bad taste in your mouth.”