May 11, 2010
NASHVILLE--- Jason Esposito's solo home run off the roof of adjacent Memorial Gym in the bottom of the 17th inning lifted Vanderbilt to an 11-10 win over Louisville Tuesday night at Hawkins Field.
The Commodores won their third straight game to improve to 36-13 overall while the Cardinals fell to 40-9 on the year.
U of L reliever Andy Flett recorded the first two outs of the 17th before Esposito crushed a 0-1 changeup over the "Green Monster" fence in left field and onto Memorial Gym to win the game. It was his team leading ninth homer of the year, ending a game that went five hours and 33 minutes.
"I was just swinging, just like everyone else was doing," said Esposito. "I didn't even watch the ball, I'm just glad we won. This was my first walk-off homer, ever, so that was awesome."
The crowd of 3,203 fans, the largest for a midweek game in Vanderbilt baseball history, saw the Commodores rally from three deficits including two two-run margins in their last at bats in the ninth and 14th innings.
"Three comebacks, it's probably a run-off from what happened this weekend (at LSU)," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "The ability to come back three consecutive times. It was unbelievable. I don't know if I've ever witnessed that before, especially with a good team like Louisville. Essentially we played two games. It was two offensive teams that were just trying too hard at times. No one lost tonight. This was a very good baseball game."
The game raised approximately $21,600 for flood relief efforts for the Nashville chapter of the American Red Cross, not including concessions and Vanderbilt Book Store donations that will be added at a later time.
Admission to the game was free as donations were accepted and the school also collected money for the Red Cross through auctioning off souvenirs, which, among other things, included a Chicago Bears helmet signed by Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett and Chris Williams and a baseball glove signed by David Price. The University of Louisville also played a part in the efforts, bringing a check for relief efforts.
In addition to the monetary donation, countless amount of food and household goods were collected to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and Hands on Nashville
Both teams combined to use 14 pitchers (seven each) with the Commodores down to their last pitcher available in Will Clinard. He responded in a big way, throwing a career high six innings of four hit ball. He gave up two runs in the 14th but came back and threw three straight shutout innings afterwards. The Robertson County native struck out four and walked one while moving to 3-0 on the year.
"I just had to make sure we were mentally prepared," said Clinard. "We were really competing as a team out there. I knew, coming into the ninth with Russell pitching, that I had to get ready in case we go into extra innings. All you can do is compete."
Louisville put up as four spot in the first inning and added another run in the second inning to take an early 5-0 lead.
Vanderbilt starter Chase Reid gave up five runs, four earned, on five hits in two innings of work with a walk and a strikeout.
The Commodores posted six runs in the third inning to take a 6-5 lead. Bryan Johns started the rally with a one out double into the gap in left. Brian Harris followed with a two-run homer to left, his second in as many games, and his fifth homer of the season. Anthony Gomez singled up the middle and Jason Esposito was hit by a pitch before Aaron Westlake struck out. Curt Casali doubled down the left field line to plate a run and Andrew Giobbi followed with a bloop double to right center to score two and tie the game at 5-5. Joe Loftus then gave VU the lead with a single to right-center to plate Giobbi.
The Cardinals tied it in the top of the fifth when Jeff Arnold singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Andrew Clark's RBI single up the middle.
The game remained a scoreless tie until the ninth when Louisville scored two runs on Phil Wunderlich's double down the left field line off of Vanderbilt closer Russell Brewer.
The Commodores rallied for the second time of the night in the ninth as Gomez reached on a fielder's choice and moved to third on Esposito's bloop double to center. Aaron Westlake then hit a grounder to Louisville shortstop Adam Duvall that brought in one run, and then another as his throw over to first to get Westlake sailed wide of first.
The game went into extra innings with Russell Brewer pitching until the 11th.
Clinard came on in the 12th and pitched two scoreless innings before the Cardinals struck for two runs in the 14th. Wunderlich singled with one out and Stewart IJames walked before J.J. Ethel doubled them home to give the Cardinals a 10-8 lead.
Vanderbilt rallied for the third and final time of the night in the 14th when Westlake led off with a single and scored on Curt Casali's RBI double that narrowly missed clearing the fence in left. Mark Lamm came on to pinch run for Casali and advanced to third when Loftus walked and Jordan Wormsley was hit by a pitch by reliever Tony Zych. Mike Yastrzemski then hit a deep fly ball to right that Lamm tagged on from third to score and tie the game at 10-10.
Flett (0-1) took the loss, allowing the one run on the only hit he gave up in 2.2 innings of relief.
In all Louisville hurlers combined to strikeout six Commodore batters, while the Vanderbilt pitching staff struck out 15 batters.
Brian Harris was once again a catalyst from the leadoff spot going 4-for-6 with two RBI and a run scored. He reached base eight times in 10 plate appearances including two walks and two hit by pitches.
Gomez, Esposito, Casali and Giobbi each had two hits to help lead the 15 hit attack, while the offense also left 14 runners on base in the contest.
Jeff Arnold led the Cardinals with four hits and three runs scored.
The Commodores will be back in Southeastern Conference action this weekend on the road against Mississippi State. The series opens on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and will continue on Saturday at 2 p.m. before closing up on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.