Vanderbilt routs ETSU 9-1 in NCAA regional opener
MAY 31, 2013 10:35p ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- You wouldn’t ever get Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin or any of his players to admit it, but they know the math.
Following a 9-1 win over fourth-seeded East Tennessee State in the NCAA regional opener Friday night, it’s one down and four victories to go for the Commodores (52-9) to return to the College World Series for the first time since 2011.
That would mean winning two more games without a loss this weekend to claim the Nashville regional, and then follow that with two more wins next week when it would surely play host to a NCAA Super Regional with a berth to the CWS in Omaha, Neb., on the line.
But don’t expect the Commodores to get too far ahead of themselves, considering they return to Hawkins Field on Saturday at 7 p.m. to play third-seeded Illinois, a 6-4 winner over No. 2 seed Georgia Tech in the Regional opener Friday afternoon. The winner of that game advances to Sunday night’s title game without a loss in the double-elimination affair.
Georgia Tech and ETSU will play an elimination game Saturday at 2 p.m.
ETSU ace Kerry Doane (13-1), the Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year who leads the nation with 12 complete games, was originally scheduled to get the start against Vanderbilt. But the senior right-hander was held out by Bucs coach Tony Skole after he pitched 18 innings, including a complete game Sunday, in the A-Sun tournament and has battled strep throat all this week.
Instead, the Bucs started sophomore right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (2-3), who learned he would be his team’s starting pitcher Friday morning and was later that night greeted by the Commodores with a five-run first inning off six singles. First baseman Conrad Gregor got the scoring started with a two-RBI liner up the middle.
“That first inning when we pushed across five runs was big, especially in the first game of a tournament because they are not easy to play regardless of whether you have been here or not,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year whose Commodores are the No. 2 national seed.
“It was a good start for us,” he added. “Obviously, winning an opening game is a big deal.”
But after Vanderbilt scored the initial five runs, Nesselt settled down to retire 15 straight batters and didn’t allow a baserunner until two outs in the sixth inning. And that came only after the 'Dores reached safely on consecutive bunts by designated hitter Rhett Wiseman and shortstop Vince Conde.
“We prepared Jimmy to start from the get-go,” ETSU coach Tony Skole said. “… Kerry wanted the ball, but it was just my decision. I just didn’t feel he was going to be 100 percent for us. He just needed some more rest.”
Vanderbilt got another sterling pitching effort from junior left-hander Kevin Ziomek (11-2), who yielded only three hits and one unearned run while striking out five batters in seven innings.
“They came in pretty aggressive,” Ziomek said of facing ETSU hitters. “We knew they were a team that was going to take some hacks early in the count, so the biggest thing with a team like that is to just throw first-pitch strikes and locate quality pitches. And we were able to do that.”
ETSU (36-23) finally broke through against Ziomek by scoring a lone run in the sixth inning without a hit. Leadoff hitter Jeremy Taylor was hit by a pitch, moved to second base when Dylan Tritsch reached on an error, advanced to third on a deep fly to center field by Clinton Freeman, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Clinton Freeman.
“I knew once we got behind 5-0, he was going to be very difficult to get to, with just the fact that he was going to pitch with the lead and be very, very aggressive,” Skole said of Ziomek.
Ziomek agreed that having an early 5-0 cushion after the first inning is quite the luxury for a starting pitcher.
“It’s huge,” he said. “The way the defense was playing, it’s hard not to have confidence out there. You just have to go out there and throw strikes knowing the defense is going to make plays.”
Vanderbilt chased Nesselt and broke the game open in the seventh inning by scoring three runs for an 8-1 lead. The big blow was a towering home run to left-center field by senior Connor Harrell.
“We have been playing well all year,” Corbin said of his team that is ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America even despite losing to LSU in the SEC tournament title game in extra innings last Sunday.
“When you take some time off, you wonder how you are going to energize the first couple of innings,” he added. “But that first inning was what we needed. It was a spike.”
Illinois 6, Georgia Tech 4
The twin brothers Parr -- left fielder Jordan and center fielder Justin -- guided third-seeded Illinois to the win over No. 2 seed Georgia Tech in Friday afternoon’s opening game of the Nashville regional.
Jordan Parr belted two home runs -- a two-run shot in the fourth inning that knocked in brother Justin Parr, who had singled for one of his two hits; and a solo shot to lead off the sixth inning -- as the Fighting Illini (35-18) handed the Yellow Jackets (34-26) their sixth loss in seven games. Kevin Duchene (9-1), the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year, gave up only three runs for Illinois while scattering eight hits over seven innings.
“I didn’t know either of them were gone when I hit them,” the All-American Jordan Parr said of his two home runs. “That second one got a little lucky. The wind was blowing out. They were two good swings, just kind of thankful for them.”
Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Georgia Tech got consecutive triples from right fielder Daniel Palka and third baseman Sam Dove to cut the deficit in half. The Yellow Jackets scored another run in the seventh to pull within one run before Illinois answered with two runs in the eighth to secure the win.
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