Coming into this series, and knowing the pitching prowess that Tim Corbin's Vandy squad possesses, it was easy to see a low scoring affair was on the way. Everyone saw what Alabama's outstanding pitching staff did to A&M's more than potent offense two weeks ago. The main difference of this series, however, is that Vandy's offense has a consistent pulse from game to game.
Vandy's two best players, RF Jeren Kendall and CF Bryan Reynolds, were the main holdovers from last season's offense, which helped get the Dores to the College World Series finals for the second consecutive year. Behind them were a capable, but vulnerable bunch that has helped lead Vandy to being second in the SEC in runs scored and RBIs. Yet the Commodores only scored six total runs throughout the series, only four of them earned. That's how good the Aggie pitching staff was as a whole.
After last weekend's game one was postponed until Saturday in Fayetteville, Rob Childress decided to start Turner Larkins in game one against Vanderbilt in order to keep Brigham Hill from pitching on two days short rest. While he didn't end up pitching long enough to register for the win, his 3.1 innings of three hits, no walks and four strikeouts really set the tone for the series opener. Since he arrived in College Station as a freshman last season, Larkins has struggled with his command, but on Thursday he had no issue at all.
Andrew Vinson came on in the fourth in his first outing since a shaky performance at Arkansas. Before that performance, he had been one of the most reliable arms in the bullpen for Childress, and he really delivered on Thursday with a three inning performance. He allowed three hits, one walk and struck out three before giving up the ball to Mark Ecker in the seventh. Ecker has been on a masterful run of late, and he continued that on Thursday by striking out three in 2.2 perfect innings to earn the save.
The lone offense of the ballgame came in the bottom of the first inning. JB Moss led off the inning by reaching on an error by the Vanderbilt third baseman, and he advanced to third on groundouts by Nick Banks and Boomer White. With Moss on third and two outs, Hunter Melton singled Moss home for the only run of the ballgame.
Much like the Alabama series two weeks ago, the Ags had a bit of trouble in game two of the series. For the second straight start, Brigham Hill had a tough day at the office, but it didn't start that way. He allowed just one hit in the first two innings, stranding Jeren Kendall at second base in the top of the first.
In the third, however, Hill hit the first two batters of the inning. The next hitter hit a grounder back to Hill that he then threw away, allowing a run to score and putting runners on the corners with no outs. The fourth hitter of the inning grounded into a double play, which scored the runner from third and made it 2-0 Vandy.
Vanderbilt scored again in the fourth. The leadoff hitter of the inning walked, and the next hitter followed up with a double to left-center field. An error by Austin Homan on a ground ball scored the runners on second and third, which made the score 4-0 Vandy. Then in the fifth Vandy added another run on a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. The Dores ended their scoring on the night when they added their sixth and final run in the top of the eighth via an RBI single from their shortstop, Connor Kaiser.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Ags showed a bit of life. Ryne Birk doubled to lead off the inning, and Michael Barash followed that up with an RBI single to cut into the Vandy lead. Jonathan Moroney, pinch hitting for DH Joel Davis, then singled to put runners on first and second with no outs, but Ronnie Gideon, who was pinch hitting for Nick Choruby, struck out afterwards for the first out of the inning. Austin Homan then grounded into a double play to end the ballgame.
So if you were out of town, or live under a rock, you might have missed the single best pitching performance that any Aggie pitcher has put forth since A&M joined the SEC: Senior Kyle Simonds threw his first career no-hitter, the 12th in Texas A&M Baseball history and the first since Ross Stripling in 2012.
In this game, and aside from the big storyline, Austin Homan cranked his first #WHAMMY in an Aggie uniform in the fifth inning, followed by a Boomer White RBI single to make it 2-0. Finally, a Nick Choruby RBI groundout made it 3-0 in the seventh, but it turns out that Simonds only needed Homan's fifth inning bomb because, you know, he threw a got damn NO-HITTER.
Congrats to Kyle!