Trey Killian has to be the happiest pitcher on the planet tonight. The sophomore starter finally got the run support that had eluded him in his previous starts.
Killian, now 2-6 on the season, was brilliant on the mound Friday night, going 6 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and two unearned runs while fanning three. His ERA dropped from 3.00 to 2.35 in the win. That really says something for a pitcher to be 2-6, but have a sub-2.50 ERA. He just hadn't received the run support before tonight.
Postgame, Dave Van Horn said Killian had good stuff in his start, but didn't even bring his best stuff. That's scary, because Killian basically held down the No. 11 Commodores offense while he was on the bump. He held the 1-4 hitters in the Vandy lineup to a combined 2-for-14.
After Killian went three up, three down in the top half of the first inning, Arkansas finally got him his run support. Andrew Benintendi and Joe Serrano reached base on back-to-back singles, and Brian Anderson walked to load the bases for Blake Baxendale. Baxendale then bounced into a fielder's choice, bringing in the first run of the game.
Then the hot-hitting Eric Fisher stepped to the plate against Tyler Beede and launched a first-pitch change up into the Vanderbilt bullpen for a three-run home run. Arkansas led 4-0 after one inning, and that's all Killian would need on this night.
Vanderbilt would get two unearned runs off Killian in the top of the third inning behind errors from Joe Serrano in left field and Michael Bernal at shortstop. Bernal's error, his ninth of the season, came with two Commodores in scoring position. His throw got away from Fisher at first and allowed both runners to cross the plate.
But Arkansas answered back in the bottom half of the third on an RBI single from Baxendale, scoring Serrano to push the Arkansas lead to 5-2. Baxendale has been on a tear of late, and tonight brought in RBIs 10 and 11 of the season. Most of Arkansas' damage in this game was done in the middle of the order where Baxendale has been inserted. He and Fisher have both been on tears at the plate in the 5-6 holes.
Eric Fisher wasn't done after his home run in the first. He came back in the fifth inning and brought in another run with a sac fly to deep centerfield to make it a 6-2 game. After the game Fisher said he thought he put a better swing on the sac fly than the home run.
Arkansas found itself in a little trouble in the top half of the seventh. Killian began missing his spots and loaded the bases with two outs. Van Horn then pulled Killian in favor of freshman Zach Jackson out of the bullpen. And the freshman rose to the challenge, striking out Jason Delay on a nasty breaking pitch to end the Vanderbilt threat.
The teams then traded zeros the rest of the way, and Michael Gunn entered the game in the ninth and shut the door on game one.
Arkansas' offense really got after Tyler Beede, who gave up a career-high 10 hits in his start. Beede was a phenomenal 14-1 last season, but has struggled this season and fell to 5-5 on the season tonight.
Van Horn said the mindset going in against Beede was just to be aggressive at the plate, and it paid off.
Arkansas and Vandy will do battle again Saturday at 6:05 p.m. Jalen Beeks will get the ball for Arkansas in game two.