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Notebook: Ninth Inning Heroics at Hawkins Field
By David Dawson
NASHVILLE -- It wasn't a walk-off homer, but it felt every bit as dramatic as one for Dansby Swanson and his Vanderbilt teammates.
With the top-seeded Commodores locked in a tie game with No. 3-seeded Indiana in the Nashville Regional on Saturday night, Swanson connected for a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to help send Vanderbilt to a 6-4 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,626 at Hawkins Field.
The Commodores, the defending national champions, are now one win away from advancing to the Super Regionals. Vanderbilt (44-19) will play for the Regional title on Sunday night at 7 p.m. against the winner of Sunday afternoon's Radford-Indiana game that begins at 3 p.m. The winner of the afternoon contest will have to beat Vanderbilt twice to advance. (The if-necessary game is scheduled for Monday night).
Swanson, who is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming major league draft, showed on Saturday why his stock is so high.
After hitting the tie-breaking homer, which was his 14th of the season, he made a dazzling defensive play in the bottom of the ninth for the Commodores, who were designated as the "visiting" team. Swanson finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a stolen base in the win.
Rhett Wiseman went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and Bryan Reynolds added two hits to help fuel Vanderbilt's 11-hit attack. Will Toffey drove in two runs for the Commodores.
A trio of Vanderbilt pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts in the win. The Commodores have now recorded 26 strikeouts in the first two games of the Regional.
Vanderbilt starter Philip Pfeifer worked six innings, allowing four runs on five hits and recording 10 strikeouts. Reliever Ben Bowden earned the victory with two scoreless innings of one-hit ball, finishing with four strikeouts and one walk. Kyle Wright pitched a perfect ninth inning, with one strikeout, to earn the save, his second.
Craig Dedelow was 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Hoosiers, who jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after scoring two runs in the first inning and another in the second.
Vanderbilt rallied for four runs in the third, highlighted by Toffey's two-run double, to grab a 4-3 lead. After the first three batters of the inning reached base, Zander Wiel drove in the Commodores' first run with a groundout. Toffey followed with his two-run double, and Jeren Kedall capped the scoring with an RBI single.
Indiana tied the game in the sixth on a run-scoring infield single by Dedelow. Indiana catcher Brad Hartong, who finished 2-for-3, led off the inning with a single and eventually came around to score on Dedelow's slow grounder.
The teams stayed tied for the next two innings until Swanson delivered his blast in the ninth. The Vanderbilt dugout -- and the Commodore crowd -- exploded when the ball cleared the fence, and Swanson enthusiastically clapped his hands as he rounded the bases.
Swanson's shot was Vanderbilt's 59th homer of the season -- 37 more than last season -- and the Commodores improved to 29-7 in games in which they hit at least one long ball.