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Vanderbilt baseball falls to Louisville for first three-game losing streak since 2018

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 5/4/2021 Adam Sparks, Nashville Tennessean
a baseball player pitching a ball on a field: Vanderbilt baseball freshman pitcher Christian Little winds up before delivering a pitch in his collegiate debut against Western Kentucky at Hawkins Field. Feb. 24, 2021. © Submitted: Vanderbilt Athletics Vanderbilt baseball freshman pitcher Christian Little winds up before delivering a pitch in his collegiate debut against Western Kentucky at Hawkins Field. Feb. 24, 2021.

No. 2 Vanderbilt baseball suffered its first three-game losing streak since 2018, falling 7-2 to No. 15 Louisville Tuesday in their Battle of the Barrel game.

Granted, it came against good competition. The Commodores lost back-to-back games to No. 9 Florida on Saturday and Sunday.

It marks Vanderbilt’s longest losing streak since dropping six straight three years ago, a skid that also included a loss to Louisville in this annual rivalry game. Since then, the Commodores won the 2019 national championship and went 13-5 last season, which was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Vanderbilt (32-10, 14-7 SEC) and Louisville (24-14, 14-9 ACC) play in a midweek game each May in the Battle of the Barrel, a name adopted in 2012. An oak barrel, symbolizing Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon, is given to the winning team.

Louisville now has a 5-4 edge in the Battle of the Barrel after capitalizing on the Commodores’ miscues and quieting their bats.

RIVALRY: Why Vanderbilt-Louisville game is called the Battle of the Barrel

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RECAP: Enrique Bradfield has career-high four hits, but Vanderbilt drops series to Florida

Vanderbilt will get a chance to snap its losing streak with a more manageable four-game homestand. It will play Alabama (28-15, 11-10 SEC) in a three-game series on Friday (6:30 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) and North Alabama (7-34) in a nonconference contest on May 11.

Vanderbilt bats were all or nothing

Vanderbilt entered the Louisville game ranked second in the SEC in batting average (.300) and third in runs per game (7.4), but it didn’t approach either number.

First baseman Dominic Keegan hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, his eighth of the season. And pinch hitter Spencer Jones hit a solo homer in the eighth, the first of his career.

But Vanderbilt managed only four more hits and went 2-for-14 with runners on base.

Mistakes end freshman pitcher's outing

Vanderbilt right-hander Christian Little (2-1), a 17-year-old freshman, had a solid start. He reached 95 mph on his fastball and got out of the first inning with two runners on base.

He had some minor trouble on the second time through the Louisville order. After retiring seven straight, he started the fourth inning by giving up a single and hitting a batter. A fielder’s choice and a wild pitch scored two runs for a 2-1 deficit.

Then Louisville stretched its lead to 6-1 in a mistake-filled fifth inning. Keegan double-clutched a throw to second base and failed to get the lead runner out on a routine groundball.

Later in the fifth, Little’s errant pickoff throw and balk moved Louisville runners, and a single scored them. Alex Binelas’ two-run home run capped the scoring surge and ultimately ended Little’s outing. In five innings, he allowed six runs on four hits and two walks on 70 pitches.

Reach Adam Sparks at asparks@tennessean.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Vanderbilt baseball falls to Louisville for first three-game losing streak since 2018

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