While the 10th-ranked Bulldogs battled to the end, they could not do enough to manage a victory.
Third-ranked Vanderbilt proved a slight bit better on this night, pulling out a 3-1 victory in the opening-game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Hawkins Field.
“When you have two evenly matched teams in this league, it is a matter of who gets that one extra hit or who makes that one extra play,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “I think we are just as good as Vanderbilt. We were certainly right there at the end tonight with a chance.”
Against one the nation’s premier closers, Vanderbilt’s Brian Miller, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning. Sam Frost made hard contact but wound up hitting into a game-ending double play. Miller earned his 12th save.
MSU falls to 33-11 overall and 10-9 in league play, while Vanderbilt improves to 37-6 and 17-2.
The Bulldogs got a spending pitching performance from Luis Pollorena (6-2). The senior left-hander threw career-best 7.1innings, while allowing seven hits and three runs (all earned), with four walks and three strikeouts. Chad Girodo completed the contest on the mound for MSU.
“I am proud of Luis,” Cohen said. “Certainly, he gave us a chance. Early in the game, he was struggling to get the ball down. When he gets around 80 pitches or so, he looks like he reaches the bottom and goes to a different level. He pitched out of some jams tonight and really gave us a chance. He got the key strikeout when it mattered most.”
The Commodores scored first with two runs in the third inning. After a pair of walks by Pollorena, Vanderbilt cashed in with a two-out, two-run single by Mike Yastrzemski. The hit glanced off the edge of Pollorena’s glove, as well as shortstop Adam Frazier’s glove.
“They say baseball is a game of inches,” Cohen said. “On that play, it was a game of millimeters.”
MSU again threatened in the sixth inning but Vanderbilt starter Kevin Ziomek worked around giving up back-to-back hits to lead off that inning. Ziomek (8-2) allowed four hit and one run (earned), with nine strikeouts and three walks in seven innings of work.
“We had a runner at third and less than two outs a couple of times in the game,” Cohen said. “Those have to be automatic (run-scoring) situations right there. You have to get those guys home on a Friday night in this league.”
The Bulldogs finished with six hits, including a career-best three-hit night for Pirtle. While collecting his 10th multi-hit game, Pirtle has now reached base in a team-best 17 straight games.
Connor Harrell and Yastrzemski each had two hits for Vanderbilt, which finished with seven hits.
“I am proud of these kids,” Cohen said. “There was never a doubt in the dugout that we were going to get some guys on the ninth inning and have a chance. The attitude and competitiveness of this team is great. It is a lot different than five years ago, when we first got started. I know these kids will come out and be ready to compete again Saturday.”
The series resumes at noon today on Comcast Sports Southeast. The series finale is at 1 p.m. Sunday.