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LOUISVILLE, Ky.--- Sophomore Jack Armstrong's pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the 13th inning lifted Vanderbilt to an 8-7 win over Illinois State in the first game of the NCAA Louisville Regional Friday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Commodores (42-17) will play the winner of the Louisville-Saint Louis game tomorrow at 3 p.m. CT/4 p.m. ET.
With one out in the 13th Andrew Giobbi doubled off of ISU relief ace Kenny Long. The southpaw had come on in relief in the seventh and held the VU offense scoreless for six innings. The Redbirds chose to intentionally walk Curt Casali to set up the force out in addition to setting up a left vs. left matchup at the plate.
Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin had used up the normal right-handed pinch hitters and went to pitcher/designated hitter Jack Armstrong, the Commodores third weekend starter. Armstrong was 1-for-2 at the plate this season in limited duty and laced a single to right, allowing Giobbi to round third and race for home. He slid past the catcher Matt Mirabal's tag to score the game-winning run.
"Coach (Josh) Holliday told me to get ready by the 7th or 8th inning," said Armstrong. "Mentally I was trying to get prepared. Actually I visualized that exact hit. I don't know how it happened but it was kind of fate to be honest with you. I listened to the other guys to figure out what the pitcher was doing and took a nice opposite field approach and let fate turn out that way."
The contest was VU's longest in NCAA postseason play, besting the 11 inning game against Austin Peay in 2007.
Drew Hayes pitched two innings of one-hit relief with three walks to pick up the win to move to 6-0 on the year. Twice he got out of jams with the go-ahead run in scoring position by inducing double play balls.
In all Commodore relievers threw 9.2 innings of six-hit relief, allowing one run with 12 strikeouts and five walks.
Long (4-4) took the tough-luck loss for ISU, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven and walking three.
Fifth-year seniors Brian Harris and Andrew Giobbi led the Commodores with three hits while Anthony Gomez and Jason Esposito each added two hits in the win.
"Tough ballgame," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "Sometimes they're not easy. It's good to get the first one and get in that winner's bracket. I would just have to say the highlight of it was the pitching that we received after the third inning. I thought our relief pitching was outstanding. The defense during the course of the game; two double plays. Those were the difference right there."
"Our offense just battled, and it was good to see a kid come off the bench who hits every day and doesn't necessarily get the repetitions on the field. He got a big hit when we needed it most. He drove the ball down the right field line and Andrew made a very nice slide at the plate. It was a tough, tough ballgame. Tough for Illinois State and good for us. We have to go home and rest and look forward to tomorrow."
The Redbirds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first with the help of two Commodore miscues. Lead off batter Kevin Tokarski was hit by Taylor Hill, Jake Thornton singled to left and Matt Mirabal walked to load the bases. Hill got Anthony Ruffolo to pop out before Ryan Court hit a deep fly to center that Connor Harrell misjudged and ran in and then ran back on to make the catch. He was in position to make the catch, but dropped it allowing three runs to score.
The Dores got on the board in the third scoring two runs off of Illinois State starter Corey Maines. Andrew Giobbi had a RBI single and Bryan Johns walked with the bases loaded to plate another.
The Redbirds plated three more runs in the fourth to extend the lead to 6-2. ISU knocked Hill out of the game scoring on a sacrifice fly RBI by Chad Hinshaw and a RBI double by Brett Kay. Grayson Garvin came on in relief and gave up a RBI single to Jake Thornton to close out the scoring in the frame.
Hill allowed six runs, three earned, on four hits in 3.1 innings with two strikeouts and three walks.
VU cut into the lead in the fourth with two runs to make it 6-4. Brian Harris led off with a walk and after a pop-up by Anthony Gomez, Aaron Westlake walked. Jason Esposito then barely missed a line drive three-run homer to left that hit the top of the wall and bounced back in for a double. Harris scored and then Joe Loftus grounded to the right side to score Westlake to make it 6-4.
A two-run homer by Aaron Westlake and a solo homer by Joe Loftus gave the Commodores a 7-6 lead in the sixth inning. Anthony Gomez roped a lead-off double to left-center before Westlake crushed a two-run homer to left-center to tie the game at 6-6. After Jason Esposito grounded out to short on a close call at first, Loftus lofted a solo homer to right-center to give the Dores their first lead of the game.
Matt Mirabal's solo homer in the top of the seventh tied the game back up at 7-7.
Garvin allowed one run on four hits in 4.1 innings with six strikeouts and a walk. Chase Reid threw three innings of hitless relief with five strikeouts and a walk. Richie Goodenow threw a third of an inning with a strikeout before giving way to Drew Hayes in the 12th.
Photo by John Russell