VU claims series against Auburn with doubleheader sweep
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- No. 12 Vanderbilt swept both ends of a doubleheader against Auburn Thursday at Hawkins Field winning the opener 5-2 before taking the series with a 9-3 victory in the nightcap.
John Kilichowski earned his first start of the season in the second game of the day and was sharp in picking up his first win of the year with five-plus innings of work. The Commodores (40-16, 17-12) took an early lead in the first inning on a Bryan Reynolds two-run homer and Liam Sabino RBI-single. Handed a three-run lead, Kilichowski worked out of small jams in the second and third innings, stranding Tigers (23-32, 8-21) in scoring position in both innings before working perfect frames in the fourth and fifth.
The lefty ran into trouble, however, in the sixth that he could not find his way out of as the first two batters of the inning reached on base hits. With two on and no outs, Auburn's Nick Buentello belted a three-run homer into the bleachers in right field to bring the Tigers within a run at 4-3. Matt Ruppenthal entered to get the Dores out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts and a ground ball.
With the game close again, the Vandy offense cranked up with a Jeren Kendall lining a two-run homer into the right field bleachers in the sixth to push the lead back to three runs. The Commodores piled on three more in the seventh with Karl Ellison's two-run double capping the rally.
Kilichowski allowed three runs on six hits in his longest outing of the season for the victory. The VU bullpen punched out seven over the final four scoreless innings to clinch the series.
Reynolds hit his team-leading 11th home run while Kendall's was his ninth round tripper of the year. Ellison, Kendall, Sabino and Alonzo Jones all had two hits to lead the Dores' 10-hit attack in the nightcap victory.
Auburn starter Cole Lipscomb took the loss, allowing three runs on two hits and two walks while recording just one out on 20 pitches. Jordan Ebert led the offense with three hits.
In the series opener, the Commodores erased an early two-run deficit to win 5-2. The Tigers took advantage of Jordan Sheffield's wildness in the first inning as the right-hander walked the first batter of the game and hit the second. Sheffield bounced back to get the next two batters but Blake Logan's flare into shallow right field dropped in in front of a diving Kendall to score both runs and give Auburn an early lead.
Vandy battled back for a run in the bottom of the first with Ethan Paul leading off with a double and scoring on a Julian Infante sacrifice fly. The Commodores moved in front in the fourth inning with Bryan Reynolds' leadoff single starting the rally. One batter later, Jones lined a double into the left field corner to tie the game. Will Toffey came up with a clutch, two-out single to score Jones and put VU in front for good.
Sheffield battled through control issues much of the day but handed the lead, the right-hander stranded the tying run at third in the fifth and worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning to end his day. Freshman Patrick Raby tossed three scoreless innings to notch his second save and finish off the Vanderbilt victory. Sheffield earned his team-best eighth win allowing two runs on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Paul, Reynolds and Connor Kaiser all had two hits in the win. Paul ran his way into Vanderbilt history in the seventh inning, leading the way as part of a triple steal to score a run and pad the Dores' lead to two runs. With Auburn starter Justin Camp on the mound and the bases loaded, the right-hander went from the stretch allowing Paul to steal home and slide in safe without a tag. Kendall stole third and Reynolds stole second to complete the Commodores' first triple steal since swiping three on the same play in 2013 against Lipscomb. Vandy also pulled the trick off in the 2012 SEC Tournament against Florida. The Commodores stole 11 bases combined in the two wins.
Camp took the loss for Auburn allowing four runs on eight hits over seven innings. Blake Logan had three hits for the Tigers in the loss.
The two teams will not play on Friday as severe weather is forecast in Nashville. The series resumes Saturday at 2 p.m. for the regular season finale on SEC Network+. Kyle Wright gets the ball for the Commodores in the last regular season game at Hawkins Field this year.