Vanderbilt rallies with 8-run inning, keeps Arkansas from celebration

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Friday, May 19, 2023
Vanderbilt designated hitter Troy LaNeve celebrates a home run during the eighth inning of a game against Arkansas on Friday, May 19, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.
( Brendan Ross/Vanderbilt Athletics )
Vanderbilt designated hitter Troy LaNeve celebrates a home run during the eighth inning of a game against Arkansas on Friday, May 19, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sixth-ranked Vanderbilt scored eight runs in the eighth inning to dash Arkansas’ hopes to clinch an SEC baseball championship Friday night in front of 3,802 at Hawkins Field.

Troy LaNeve’s three-run home run on the first pitch by Arkansas reliever Parker Coil completed the comeback and gave the Commodores a 10-8 victory to tie the series. The teams are scheduled to play the series finale Saturday at 2 p.m.

“We played a pretty good game, just had a bad eighth inning, obviously,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “We kind of had it all set up the way we wanted it. The pitchers I thought did a great job except in the eighth inning. You’ve got to give Vanderbilt credit. They took advantage of a couple of walks, a hit by pitch and a bunted ball that didn’t get caught.

“We just let it slip away there in the eighth. That was pretty hard to watch.”

The second-ranked Razorbacks (39-14, 20-9 SEC) will enter the final day of the regular season with a lead of one-half game over LSU and a one-game lead over Florida in the SEC standings.

The Razorbacks can clinch the title with a victory Saturday or with losses by both Florida at Kentucky and LSU at Georgia. They can also clinch a share of the title, plus the SEC West division title, if LSU loses.

Arkansas appeared on its way to clinching outright before the Commodores pelted three relief pitchers during a disastrous eighth inning. The inning included 5 hits, 2 walks and 1 hit batsman. John Bolton, the Razorbacks’ starting shortstop, was also knocked out of the game with an ankle injury after he collided with second baseman Peyton Holt on a pop up to shallow center field.

Van Horn did not have an update on Bolton following the game, but Holt said Bolton was “OK” with “a little tweak in his ankle; nothing too major, which is good.”

Bolton walked off the field on his own and had ice wrapped around his left ankle while sitting in the dugout as the Razorbacks’ lead slipped away.

Five of the Commodores’ runs came against Arkansas freshman closer Gage Wood, who allowed 3 hits, walked 1 and hit 1 batter in his first worst outing of the year. Cody Adcock faced two batters and did not record an out, and Coil gave up LaNeve’s first home run.

Vanderbilt (36-17, 18-11) had only two hits through the first seven innings against Arkansas right-handed starter Brady Tygart and left-handed reliever Zack Morris. The Commodores matched their largest rally since 2019, when they defeated Ole Miss 11-10 at the SEC Tournament after trailing 9-1.

“It’s been a tough three weeks,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, whose team snapped a four-game losing streak. “We played well last night, then we didn’t play so well. But I thought tonight we played better defense we pitched well in spots, slowed them down enough. An eight-run inning, we were fortunate. We pieced at-bats together.”

Vanderbilt is out of contention for the SEC championship, but could still share the SEC East title with Florida. The Commodores are assured to be the No. 4 seed at next week’s SEC Tournament due to tiebreakers.

Arkansas could still be anywhere from the No. 1 to No. 3 seed at the conference tournament.

The Razorbacks appeared to be on cruise control until the meltdown in the eighth. Holt scored on Bolton's two-out RBI single against Bryce Cunningham in the top of the eighth, but Arkansas stranded the bases loaded when Jace Bohrofen fouled out in front of the Commodores’ dugout.

Holt had a career-high 4 RBI and scored twice. He doubled off the 35-foot wall in left field to score Brady Slavens in the fourth inning and blasted a 3-run, 397-foot home run to left-center field in the sixth to give the Razorbacks a 7-2 lead.

Arkansas never trailed against Vanderbilt left-hander Devin Futrell. Bohrofen hit a solo home run in the Razorbacks’ second at-bat and Caleb Cali and Slavens added RBI hits to give Arkansas a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

A fourth run likely would have scored in the inning, but Kendall Diggs was out at home plate on a relay throw by shortstop Jonathan Vastine when he tried to score from first base on Cali’s one-out double to the left-field wall.

Futrell, who entered the game with a 2.93 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, allowed 7 runs, 9 hits and 1 walk, and struck out a season-high 8 during his 6-inning, 106-pitch start.

The Commodores pulled within 3-2 with back-to-back home runs by T.J. McKenzie and Enrique Bradfield in the third inning. Those were the only hits allowed by Tygart during his 62-pitch start on a pitch count, and the first runs he has allowed in 10 innings since returning from an elbow injury April 28.

Tygart retired the first eight batters he faced before McKenzie’s two-out home run to left field. The sophomore allowed 2 runs and 2 hits, and struck out 7 without issuing a walk.

“You take away those couple of pitches and he had a really good outing,” Van Horn said.

Morris pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Tygart between the fifth and seventh innings. Morris threw 26 of 42 pitches for strikes and struck out 6.

“I think he had thrown about 40 to 45 pitches through three innings and that’s usually about the max for him,” Van Horn said. “Wood has been good for the past two months. If we leave Zack in too long, it’s like, ‘Why didn’t we bring Wood in?’ That is what it is.”

Bradfield robbed Diggs of a one-out home run in the ninth inning with a leaping catch at the center-field wall.

“Guys in their career don’t even do that one time, and his timing skills and his ability to do that — I mean that’s about his sixth or seventh one here,” Corbin said of Bradfield, a junior who is expected to be a high-round draft pick in July. “It’s amazing how good he is in the outfield. We are very lucky to have him. That was one heck of a play.”

Cali’s two-out single in the ninth brought Slavens to the plate. He struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch by Vanderbilt closer Nick Maldonado, who recorded his seventh save.

Morris said he expects Arkansas to respond well Saturday.

“This team has been resilient all year,” said Morris, a team captain. “These guys have been stepping up whenever their number has been called, through unfortunate events with injuries and stuff. You’ve just got to move on from it. It’s part of the game.”


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