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March 3, 2013

Vandy completes UIC sweep with walk-off HR

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt's win streak looked to be in jeopardy for much of the day, but freshman Rhett Wiseman's 10th inning two-run homerun ensured another victory for the No. 2 Commodores and a three-game sweep over the Illinois-Chicago Flames on Sunday at Hawkins Field.

A scoreless game for much of the day due to staggering mound performances by both Vanderbilt starter Philip Pfeifer and UIC's Joe Begel, the Flames finally pushed ahead 1-0 during the top of the 8th, thanks to a couple of Commodores mistakes including a throwing error.

What appeared to be a routine ground-out to freshman shortstop Tyler Campbell said three feet over the head of first baseman Conrad Gregor, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Campbell took over shortstop responsibilities when starter Joel McKeithan and back-up Dansby Swanson went down with injuries.

Vanderbilt was quick to erase the lead in bottom of the frame with a rally that included no hits, as UIC surrendered a pair of walks and plunked a couple of Dores, including a bean on Jack Lupo during a bases loaded situation to drive in Spencer Navin.

Later, in extra innings, Commodore sophomore Vince Conde led off the bottom of the 10th with a single up the middle. Wiseman, playing in only the 11th game of his young career, attempted to bunt Conde over on two consecutive pitches, but failed to keep the sacrifice in play. On the next pitch, Wiseman assaulted a fastball from UIC's Alex Posey and watched the ball fly over the bleachers in right field for the dramatic 3-1 victory.

The win marked the 10th straight for the Commodores and moved the nationally ranked 'Dores to 12-1 on the year. It was the first "walk-off" homerun victory for VU since Jason Esposito ended a 17-inning game against Louisville in 2010.

Sophomore righty Brian Miller earned the victory in relief after posting two scoreless innings. The Franklin native worked through some adversity to get the win, navigating around a pair of Flames rally attempts in the 9th and 10th innings. Pfeifer's day was quite respectable despite the no decision. The sophomore lefty out of Knoxville tossed six scoreless innings, surrending just three hits and four more baserunners, while striking out seven. Pfeifer has allowed just one run in his first 20 innings of work this season. His latest performance pushed his ERA to a team-best 0.45 for the season.

UIC's Joe Begel had a strong performance in his own right, limiting Vanderbilt during 7.1 innings of work, allowing just one run on three hits and six strikeouts. Posey took the loss for the Flames, who are now 3-6 on the year after the series sweep.

Aside from Wiseman, VU's offensive star of the day may have been Conde, who went 2-for-4. No other Commodores besides Conrad Gregor and Campbell provided base hits on the day as VU was limited to a season-low five hits.

The Commodores will return to action on Tuesday when the Eastern Illinois Panthers prowl into Hawkins Field. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT. Vanderbilt will then hit the road on Friday for its first road weekend series of the season with a trip to Eugene to face the No. 14 Oregon Ducks.

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