LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Junior Caleb Cotham threw a complete-game four-hit shutout to lead Vanderbilt to a 6-0 win over Middle Tennessee in an elimination game Sunday afternoon at Patterson Stadium.
The Commodores (36-26) moved into its fourth NCAA Regional finals in five trips under Tim Corbin and will have to defeat host Louisville twice in order to advance to the Super Regionals.
"This was a very important game obviously, an elimination game," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "The performance we got from Caleb was nothing short of outstanding. I told him he needed to be Lance Armstrong on a bike in preparation for this heat, but he went out there and pitched against a very good hitting team and kept it down."
The Blue Raiders (44-18) were shutout for the first time this year as the best season in the history of the program came to an end.
Cotham (7-5) allowed just four hits and struck out eight batters with no walks in a career-high nine innings of work. He recorded the first complete game shutout for Vanderbilt in 28 NCAA tournament games and it was the second straight shutout for the Dores in Louisville.
"I didn't feel my fastball was there early," said Cotham. "My off speed stuff was OK and as the game went on, my fastball and slider started to get better and that really helped me out. Throughout the game I was able to throw a decent changeup and keep the ball down, and that helped out."
Aaron Westlake's solo homer in the second gave the Commodores an early 1-0 lead. It was his ninth homer of the year and sixth in the month of May.
Vanderbilt added a run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Steven Liddle to make it 2-0. Joe Loftus walked to lead off the inning and Brian Harris was hit by MTSU starter Chad Edwards to put runners on first and second with no outs. Jonathan White grounded to first baseman Blake McDade who touched first base for the first out but could not convert the double play as Brian Harris successfully made it back to first in a rundown. Liddle then flied out to right to score Loftus to make it 2-0.
The Dores broke the game open with a four-run eighth inning to make it 6-0. Brian Harris led off with a double and Jonathan White followed with a two-run blast to right field, his second homer of the year, to double the advantage to 4-0. VU added two more two outs later when Aaron Westlake doubled and scored on Andrew Giobbi's RBI single to left. Jason Esposito capped off the scoring with a RBI single to left.
Aaron Westlake, the Southeastern Conference's leading hitter, finished 2-for-4 with a RBI and two runs scored to lead the Commodores.
Edwards (8-2) took the loss for MTSU, allowing two runs on three hits in 5.2 innings with two strikeouts and a walk.
Middle Tennessee 000 000 000 - 0 4 1
Vanderbilt 010 001 04x - 6 9 0
Edwards, Guidry (6), Smalley (8), Wilson (8), Hyde (8) and Robertson, Acker. Cotham and Giobbi. W- Cotham 7-5, L- Edwards 8-2. Sv- None. HR: VU: Westlake (9), White (2)