Vanderbilt uses small ball to reach regional final
JUN 02, 2013 12:03a ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- To come up with a big win Saturday night over Illinois in the winners’ bracket of the NCAA regional, Vanderbilt baseball had to go small.
Clinging to a precarious 5-4 lead heading into the eighth inning, the top-seeded Commodores used four singles, including two bunts, to plate five runs and race to a 10-4 victory. Even another bunt that didn’t go for a hit caused a Fighting Illini fielding miscue that led to a Vanderbilt run.
Vanderbilt (53-9) advances to Sunday night’s regional title game at 7 p.m. CT against the winner of Sunday’s 2 p.m. elimination game between third-seeded Illinois (35-19) and No. 2 seed Georgia Tech (35-26), a 5-1 winner Saturday afternoon over East Tennessee State (36-24) in the double-elimination tournament. Illinois beat Georgia Tech 6-4 in their regional opener on Friday.
“It was a tale of two different games, really,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, whose team trailed the first four innings and didn’t take the lead for good until a three-run fifth inning. “The first four innings were a grind. We gave them some opportunities, and they capitalized on them.
"… We had a couple good innings, and I think our kids responded very well.”
Should Vanderbilt lose Sunday night, it will have another chance Monday night to advance to the NCAA Super Regional next weekend that it would surely host after being named the No. 2 national seed.
The 'Dores pounded out 17 hits off six Illini pitchers, including a triple and two doubles by senior right fielder Mike Yastrzemski. Leadoff hitter Tony Kemp, the SEC player of the year and leading hitter, had four hits and scored three runs, while designated hitter Zander Wiel and third baseman Xavier Turner had three hits each.
“We played a very good Vanderbilt team,” said Illinois coach Dan Hartleb, whose team had only five hits and committed three errors. “It is easy to see why they are as successful as they are. They play very unselfish. They move runners. Mentally, they were very solid, and that was the difference.”
Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede, who is still undefeated this season at 14-0, allowed only two hits in four innings. But he struggled with control in getting the no-decision, walking five batters -- including the leadoff batter to open innings two through four -- and had only one inning where at least two Fighting Illini base runners didn’t reach base.
Commodores freshman reliever Carson Fulmer shut the door on the Fighting Illini after relieving Beede with no outs and one runner on base in the fifth inning. From there, Fulmer (3-0) allowed no runs in five full innings, scattering three hits with four strikeouts, including twice to close an inning with a runner in scoring position.
Illinois got on the scoreboard first by plating a run in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Thomas Lindauer laced a tripled into the right-center field gap and scored later on a fielder’s choice groundout by Justin Parr.
After going 0-for-4 in the opening win Friday over East Tennessee State, Kemp finally got untracked. After a two-out single to right to start the third inning, he stole second and took third on an errant throw. He scored on a single by Turner, who stole second and then scored on a triple by Yastrzemski.
But Illinois answered in the bottom of the third inning to retake the lead at 3-2. After Beede yielded consecutive walks to start the inning, All-American Jordan Parr drove in a run to knot the game on a sacrifice fly, followed by a run-scoring single by third baseman Brandon Hohl.
The Commodores let a prime scoring chance go by the board in the fourth inning when first baseman Conrad Gregor singled and Wiel doubled to have runners at second and third base with nobody out. But losing pitcher John Kravertz (5-3) got a strikeout before ending the inning with a double play.
Conversely, Illinois added a run in the bottom of the fourth without a hit when David Hendrickson scored on a wild pitch by Beede. But the Commodores answered once again, this time taking the lead for good with a three-run fifth inning. The big blow was a two-run double by Yasztremski.
It appeared Illinois had tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when Michael Hurwitz apparently had scored from third when a throw from Vanderbilt catcher Spencer Navin overthrew second base on an attempted steal. But the home plate umpire ruled batter interference, much to the chagrin of Hartleb, on the throw to end the inning.
Hartleb declined to comment on the momentum-changing play.
Georgia Tech 4, ETSU 1
Rebounding from losing to Illinois on Friday to be sent to the losers’ bracket of the four-team tourney, Georgia Tech stayed alive Saturday afternoon with a 5-1 elimination game win over East Tennessee State.
After being held from starting Friday’s game by Yellow Jackets coach Danny Hall, senior right-handed ace Buck Farmer (9-4) struck out eight batters and gave up just two singles in six innings as Georgia Tech steadily built the lead. He might have finished the game, if not for a lightning delay that lasted 1 hour, 48 minutes in the seventh inning.
“He was throwing all three pitches for strikes,” Hall said of Farmer, a semifinalist for national pitcher of the year. “He had a real good fastball. He had a good slider and a good change-up. When he’s down in the zone and throwing all three for strikes, not many people will beat him.”
Georgia Tech reliever Jonathan Roberts finished the game after it was resumed. He struck out four batters and yielded an unearned run to collect his fourth save. Third baseman Sam Dove, center fielder Brandon Thomas and shortstop Matt Hyde led the winners with two hits and one RBI each.
ETSU ace Kerry Doane (13-2), who did not pitch in the region-opening loss to Vanderbilt on Friday because of illness and extensive work the previous weekend, lost for the first time since March 16. He gave up 10 hits and four earned runs as Georgia Tech steadily built a 5-0 lead they would eventually take to the ninth inning.
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