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Bulldogs Fall In Series Lidlifter With Vandy

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STARKVILLE, Miss. - Vanderbilt scored 12 straight runs as the 17th-ranked Commodores blew past Mississippi State 13-8 in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The victory inched the Commodores closer to the Southeastern Conference, while officially eliminating all hopes for the Bulldogs to make the tournament field. VU improved to 37-13 overall and 13-10 in league play, while MSU fell to 21-29 and 5-20. The Bulldogs have now lost 10 straight conference games.

Things started off brightly for the home folks Friday night. Playing off the momentum of Wednesday's home win over Northwestern State, the Bulldogs scored first and actually built out a 5-1 lead with four runs in the second inning.

The Commodores quickly answered back with a four spot chasing MSU starter Tyler Whitney in the third inning. The guests took the lead for good on a three-run double by Connor Harrell in the fifth inning. A two-run home run by Aaron Westlake essentially removed all doubt from the contest.

"It's hard to get upset with a kid like Tyler Whitney," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "He works his tail off and does everything you can ask a college athlete to do. He does everything he can for Mississippi State."

Vanderbilt would eventually reel off 12 straight runs before M-State tallied three times in the home half of the ninth inning. In that at-bat, Wes Thigpen hit his fourth home run of the year and three batters later, Connor Powers added a two-run shot - his 15th of the season moving him into fifth in the league.

The Bulldogs actually came out on fire against one of the league's premier pitchers, VU sophomore right-hander Sonny Gray. Gray (7-4) was touched for seven hits and five runs (all earned) in five innings of work. Gray allowed all seven of those hits in the first 1.1 innings of work.

Ryan Collins had an RBI-single in the Bulldog first inning. With the score tied 1-1, Sam Frost began things in the Bulldog second inning with a leadoff single. After a sacrifice bunt attempt, Jonathan Ogden followed with an RBI-single. Nick Vickerson slapped a single before a two-run double by Luke Adkins. A wild pitch later scored Adkins, stretching the lead to 5-1.

For Adkins, it was his 100th career hit in the Maroon and White.

"We are scoring some runs against some of the best arms in the league," Cohen said. "We just can't give up 19 or 20 hits each night and expect to win. We aren't giving ourselves a chance to be successful when it comes to defense and pitching."

Things unraveled in the third inning. Curt Casali slapped a game-tying three-run home run off Whitney. A follow-up Andrew Giobbi double and Harrell single chased the Bulldog senior left-hander.

Kendall Graveman (2-4) worked the Bulldogs out of that tight spot in the third inning but was not as fortunate in the fifth inning.

By the time the activity ended - including a 19-minute lighting delay in the eighth inning - the Commodores had finished a 19-hit night - its best offensive output in league play this season. Gomez and Harrell each had four hits, while Jason Esposito, Westlake and Casali had multiple hits.

The Bulldogs finished with nine hits. After the Adkins double in the second inning, the Bulldogs did not tally another hit until Thigpen went deep in the ninth inning.

Vickerson and Powers each had multiple hits. Powers now has 27 multi-hit games and 18 multi-RBI games this season.

The Bulldogs and Commodores resume their weekend series with a 2 p.m. start on Saturday. VU is scheduled to start junior right-hander Taylor Hill (5-3, 3.22 ERA), while MSU is scheduled to start freshman right-hander Chris Stratton (4-3). Seven Bulldog seniors will be honored in pregame activities. The Sunday series finale is set for 1:30 p.m.


Connor Powers
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