NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After four scoreless innings, Vanderbilt broke the game open in the middle innings to turn an early pitchers’ duel in to a 9-1 Commodore victory over Duke Friday afternoon at Hawkins Field.
After Duke (0-1) plated the first run of the season, Vanderbilt (1-0) registered 10 of its 16 hits over two frames, scoring five runs in the fifth and three in the sixth. The Blue Devils were unable to capitalize on five walks and four hit batters issued by the Commodore staff.
“If you had told me going into this ballgame that [Vanderbilt was] going to give us 10 free bases, I would’ve liked our chances as good as our offense is,” said head coach Chris Pollard. “I thought we did a good job of limiting free bases; we only gave up six. Vanderbilt earned their runs. They strung hits together. We didn’t do a good job of executing with two strikes. Offensively, I thought we were really passive. We didn’t get in the box looking to apply pressure when were given all those walks and hit by pitches.”
Center fielder Pat DeMarco reached in four of his five plate appearances while second baseman Ethan Paul and Philip Clarke both drove in three RBI. Overall, the Commodores outhit Duke (0-1) 16-3 in the 2018 season opener.
The first four frames, Duke’s Adam Laskey and Vanderbilt’s Drake Fellows traded zeroes before both starters departed the game in the fifth. Laskey (1-0) took the loss, allowing three runs on five hits over 4.0 innings.
Duke’s first run of the season came without the benefit of a hit thanks to four free passes. Fellows walked Michael Smiciklas and hit Max Miller to begin the frame. After a Joey Loperfido sacrifice bunt, Jimmy Herron also walked to allow Griffin Conine to drive a sacrifice fly to deep left field for the game’s first run.
The 1-0 lead did not last the bottom half. The first six Commodore batters reached base, effectively erasing the Duke advantage. RBI base knocks from Paul, Jayson Gonzalez and Stephen Scott resulted in a 5-1 Vanderbilt lead at the inning’s conclusion.
The Commodore runs kept coming the next inning as Clarke’s two-out, two-RBI flare single in the sixth extended the lead, 8-1. A Paul sacrifice fly account for a run earlier in the inning.
Freshman Matt Dockman came on to pitch two scoreless innings of relief in his collegiate debut, fanning a pair.
“Two of the guys that competed as well as anyone on the field today were freshmen,” said Pollard. “Matt Dockman threw great. Pitched to contact and came in and made pitches. Really impressed with the job by Loperfido at first base. Did a great job around the bag, executed a sac bunt to put two runners in scoring position. I thought he played well.”
Duke and Vanderbilt resume the series Saturday, Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. (CST). Senior Ryan Day takes the mound opposite sophomore lefty Zach King.