Vandy beats Georgia Tech to reach Super Regionals
JUN 03, 2013 9:43p ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt’s baseball team felt more relief than joy in beating Georgia Tech 7-1 to win the NCAA Regional it was a prohibitive favorite to capture.
After all, the Commodores (54-10) have been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the country for a large part of the season and entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 overall seed. Anything less than at least playing host to a Super Regional with a berth into the College World Series on the line would have been considered a huge disappointment.
“I really can’t tell you it is joyful,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said of advancing out of the regional. "... It is a relief. You put so much into it. And I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that all I could think about is doors closing behind you.
“I think (baseball) is the cruelest game in college athletics because of the closure that you (don’t) have. And I don’t like thinking about it.”
But after losing 5-0 Sunday night to Georgia Tech to force the winner-take-all title game Monday night, all the pressure to survive and advance was on the Commodores.
Which made the pitching performances of Vanderbilt starter and winning pitcher Philip Pfeifer (4-0) and reliever Brian Miller even more crucial. Pfeifer, a sophomore left-hander, scattered four hits without giving up a run through five innings before giving way to Miller in the sixth. From there, the sophomore righty picked up his 16th save by not allowing a hit and yielding only one run in the final four frames.
“I felt it was my turn to defend the program,” said Pfeifer, who got a no-decision but gave up a career-high 11 hits in his last outing a week ago Sunday. That was Vanderbilt’s extra-inning loss to LSU in the title game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Vanderbilt advances to play host to Louisville (49-12) in the Super Regional that will start either Friday or Saturday at Hawkins Field. Dates and times for the best two-out-of-three series were to be announced late Monday night. Host Louisville beat Oklahoma State on Sunday to sweep its regional and gain a third Super Regional and first since 2009.
Playing in their eighth straight NCAA Tournament, the Commodores are seeking a return to the College World Series for the first time since 2011. In 2010, Vanderbilt swept host Louisville in a Super Regional. Earlier this season on April 23, the Commodores won 10-2 at Louisville, and they own a 20-4 overall record against the Cardinals.
Vanderbilt’s aggressiveness and eventual 13 hits Monday night were a far cry from its tentative approach during Sunday’s loss to Georgia Tech that forced Monday’s title game. The Commodores managed only two hits and were shut out for only the second time this season Sunday, but Monday they built a 4-0 lead through six innings before blowing the game open with a three-run seventh.
“Coming out Sunday, we didn’t seem to have our energy,” said Commodores senior right fielder Mike Yastrzemski, the regional most valuable player. “We needed to make sure we brought that back as soon as possible. It just starts with the guys’ attitudes and wanting to be there and wanting to come out swinging.”
Georgia Tech (37-27) started pitching ace Buck Farmer, who had thrown 58 pitches in Saturday’s win over East Tennessee State. In four innings, he kept the Yellow Jackets within striking distance by allowing only two runs, but the bullpen couldn’t keep the Commodores from continually growing the lead.
“(Monday) night was Vanderbilt’s night,” said Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall, whose team won four straight after losing its opener to Illinois to force Monday’s game. “ … Vanderbilt’s got an outstanding team and has a chance to go a long way.”
Vanderbilt steadily built a 4-0 lead through six innings, plating a run in the first and second innings off Farmer (9-5), then adding another off reliever Alex Cruz in the fifth.
The Commodores could have blown the game open in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with nobody out, but scored only run after leadoff hitter Tony Kemp was tagged out at the plate to close the inning trying to score on a mishandled pitch by Tech catcher Mitch Earnest.
The Commodores did blow the game open in the seventh inning, however, by scoring three unearned runs with two hits and three bunts. The highlight was a safety squeeze bunt by right fielder Jack Lupo that scored Rhett Wiseman from third.
Vanderbilt got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning. Following consecutive walks to No. 3 hitter Yastrzemski and clean-up hitter Connor Harrell, first baseman Conrad Gregor drove in Yasztremski with an infield single. The liner by Gregor appeared headed up the middle, but Georgia Tech shortstop Mott Hyde dived to knock the ball down, squirmed to retrieve and then barely missed throwing out Yastrzemski at home plate in a call contested by Hall.
Georgia Tech got its leadoff hitter on base against Pfeifer to start the first three innings, but the Commodores turned double plays to end the first two frames and got out of the third unscathed despite a runner reaching third.
The Commodores added another run in the second inning when shortstop Vince Conde reached on a bloop hit to right field, reached second on a single by catcher Spencer Navin, gained third on a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Jack Lupo and scored on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
The Yellow Jackets got their only run of the game in the seventh inning without a hit off Miller when first baseman was hit by pitch to lead off the inning, moved to second on a walk and then scored on an error by Conde.
“I am proud of the kids,” Corbin said of coming back with a win Monday following Sunday’s disappointing effort against Georgia Tech. “They just responded like I though they would.”
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