NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt University kicked off the NCAA Tournament action with an impressive 12-2 victory over Eastern Illinois in the 2023 Nashville Regional at Hawkins Field on Friday night (2). The sellout crowd witnessed a dominant performance by the Commodores.
Devin Futrell (W, 8-3) delivered a stellar pitching performance, striking out seven Panthers in five innings while allowing only one earned run. Thomas Schultz (S, 2) closed out the game in style, not allowing a single run over the final four frames and recording five strikeouts.
Vanderbilt’s offense was firing on all cylinders, with several players making significant contributions. Davis Diaz had a standout performance, going 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs. Alan Espinal also had a strong showing, going 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.
Despite Eastern Illinois getting off to a hot start in the first inning, taking a 1-0 lead with a leadoff triple followed by a double, Vanderbilt quickly responded in the bottom half of the inning. Enrique Bradfield Jr. led off with a single, and Diaz followed with a double, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. RJ Schreck’s sacrifice fly brought home Bradfield, tying the game at 1-1. Parker Noland then delivered a single to right field, scoring Diaz and giving Vanderbilt the lead.
Vanderbilt seized control of the game in the bottom of the third, batting around and piling up runs. After Bradfield’s leadoff double, Diaz blasted his ninth home run of the season, a two-run shot to left, extending the Commodores’ lead to 4-1. The inning continued with two walks and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases. Troy LaNeve drew another walk to bring in Noland, and Espinal cleared the bases with a double, driving in three more runs and expanding Vanderbilt’s lead to 8-1.
Eastern Illinois managed to score one more run in the top of the fifth, taking advantage of an error, but it was not enough to stop Vanderbilt’s dominance.
The Commodores remained scoreless until the bottom of the seventh when Espinal started the inning with a leadoff walk, followed by a no-doubt homer from Jonathan Vastine to center field, making it a 10-2 game. Vastine’s home run was his fifth of the season, with two coming in the last five games.
In the bottom of the eighth, Vanderbilt added two more runs on a hit and an error, securing a convincing 12-2 victory. The Commodores have now scored double-digit runs in three consecutive games, demonstrating their offensive prowess. Hawkins Field continues to be a favorable venue for Vanderbilt, as they have won 19 of their last 22 regional games there.
With this win, Vanderbilt improves to 42-18 for the season. They will face Oregon in the next round of the NCAA Tournament at 8 p.m. CT on Saturday. Eastern Illinois falls to 38-20 and will meet Xavier in their next matchup at 2 p.m.