RALEIGH, N.C. - Vanderbilt rallied from a five-run deficit to stun No. 16 North Carolina State with a 9-8 walk-off win Saturday night at Doak Field.
The Commodores (35-26) were designated the home team prior to the game and the Dores made it work to their advantage. Vandy scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game and set up the ninth inning for heroics. Freshman Connor Castellano singled up the middle with one out and moved to second on a wild pitch. A groundout to second base by Riley Reynolds moved Castellano to third base with two outs for Tony Kemp. The Dores' second baseman was one for his last 20 at-bats and 0-for-3 on the night but the sophomore delivered in a big way, singling to center field to give the team its 15th comeback win of the season.
Vanderbilt trailed 8-3 entering the eighth inning before batting around and rallying for five runs to draw even. Castellano reached base with one out after being hit by a pitch and came around to score on Reynolds' double. Kemp flew out to center and Mike Yastrzemski looked to have ended the inning when he struck out swinging. But the ball bounced away from North Carolina State (40-18) catcher Danny Canela and allowed Yastrzemski to reach first base and Reynolds to third. The Commodores immediately took advantage of the break with Gomez driving in a run with a single and bring the tying run to the plate. Conrad Gregor kept the rally going, lacing a ground rule double down the right field line to score Yastrzemski. With runners on second and third, the Wolfpack turned to Chris Overman. The right-hander bounced a wild pitch that rolled up the first base line allowing Gomez to score from third. Canela's throw to Overman covering home sailed wide allowing Gregor to score all the way from second base and tie the game.
The Dores took an early lead in the second inning off NC State starter Carlos Rodon. Andrew Harris dropped down a safety squeeze bunt with two strikes to score Jack Lupo from third. Vandy missed out on several scoring opportunities eight runners on base over the first five innings. The Wolfpack battled back in the fifth to tie the game and took the lead in the sixth with three more runs to chase Vandy starter Sam Selman. Back-to-back RBI-singles in the seventh added to the Pack lead before Ryan Mathews' two-run homer in the eighth appeared to put the Commodores away.
Vanderbilt pounded out 10 hits on the night putting runners on base in all but two frames. Gomez and Gregor each had two hits to lead the way with eight different Commodores contributing at least one hit. Six different Dores drove in at least one run and seven scored at least one run. Gomez moved into sole possession of fifth place all-time with 265 hits in his career. Mathews and Jake Fincher posted a game-high three hits apiece to pace the Pack's 13-hit attack.
Jared Miller (3-0) earned the win in relief for VU working 1.1 scoreless innings. Overman (0-1) took the loss for NC State giving up Kemp's game-winning hit in the ninth. Selman allowed four runs on six hits and a career-high five walks over 5.1 innings. The four runs were the most the lefty had allowed since March 11 against San Diego spanning 11 outings. The run the Wolfpack scored in the fifth snapped Selman's scoreless innings streak at 15.2 innings. Rodon, the ACC Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, gave up three runs on five hits and five walks with six strikeouts over 6.2 innings. The NC State bullpen allowed six runs on five hits over the final two innings.
The Commodores advance in the winner's bracket to tomorrow night's game scheduled at 5 p.m. CT. Vanderbilt will play the winner of NC State and UNC-Wilmington with that game slated to begin at 12 p.m. CT.
Vanderbilt Quotes Head coach Tim Corbin Opening statement "It was a very emotional, well played game. Going back to the events that occurred to get us to that point, there were many. I thought we took a lot of punches early in the game, situations in which we had runners in scoring position, but Rodon was able to get out of it."
On the Matthews home run "That was the point in the game when we had to make a decision of whether to just let the game go or keep fighting and our guys never gave up."
On the performance of Rodon "We knew we couldn't just let him stand on the mound and throw fastballs and sliders, so we put some guys in motion and laid some bunts down when it was appropriate."
Second Baseman Tony Kemp On the last at-bat "I think it was just staying in the moment and staying with my teammates. They were the ones giving me confidence going into that last at-bat. They just said keep your head in it."
First Baseman Conrad Gregor On being down by five runs in the game "We've battled through adversity all season long, we knew we could come back and win the game. Our heads never got low. I credit our bench players they stayed in the game the whole time and when they got the chance they were ready to go."
NC State Quotes Head coach Elliott Avent Opening statement "I just want to say I'm very proud of how our team has played all season long. We've played with tremendous heart and courage. They were tremendous tonight, as our fans were. That was a great crowd, one of the best crowds I can ever remember here, and they were outstanding. I thought we had this game put away, I guess it just shows you it's never really put away, and some crazy things happened there at the end."
On Vanderbilt's running game "You can't change things too much this time of year. That's something you think about next year- holding runners, and it's not necessarily just holding runners, it's do they distract you. Did Trea Turner distract the pitcher when Ryan Mathews hit that home run in the eighth inning? So you're not going to change too many things this time of year, but it is something they do. I thought our guys did a pretty good job of that this time of year. They were one run through six innings, and they got it by us in the end, but it wasn't really running that got it for them."
NC State Pitcher Carlos Rodon On Vanderbilt "They were really patient up there at the plate, taking the first pitch and taking it to one strike. They got me up in my pitch count, and they did a good job with that. I tried to come back, and tried to throw strikes. They did a good job of running."
On Vanderbilt's running game "I'd say it's tough. I had to stay on the runners and try to hold them. I was focusing on the runner a little too much. I know the team runs a lot, so it was a little tough. They're a good ball club."
NC State Designated Hitter Ryan Mathews On moving forward "Just not dwell on it. We have to move forward. This game is over, it's a heartbreaker and you could think about it for weeks, but the fact of the matter is you can't dwell on it at all. We have to put it out of our memory and focus on tomorrow, we don't have time to do anything else, so that's what we're going to do."
On Vanderbilt "They're a great ball club. I thought we closed them out, we wanted to keep adding on as many as we could. With another great ball club, I don't think any lead is safe. I know we feel confident no matter how many runs we're down by, and I'm sure they feel the same way."