May 31, 2014
It was Tyler Beede's night and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it.
The one hour, 47 minute delay due to lighting didn't rattle him, and Xavier's Big East leading offense couldn't figure him out.
Vanderbilt's uber-talented ace dazzled on Friday, showcasing an array of unhittable pitches in front of a large contingent of professional scouts, who were surely drooling at what they saw with the MLB Draft just a few days away.
Vanderbilt's offense provided 11 runs after exploding for seven in the sixth inning, but Beede only needed one, tossing eight shutout innings.
"(Beede) limited free bases and changed rhythms," Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin said. "I thought his charge was good all night. I was very proud of him. We were able to separate ourselves later in the game, but it started on the mound. There is no question of what he did and what he gave us tonight."
It was clear early on that Xavier's batters would be in for a long night. Beede struck out two in the first inning. Through three innings, he had already mowed down five batters. And the carnage was just beginning.
By the time the last batter swung and missed, the total stood at a career-high 14. Thirteen of the 14 victims went down swinging. He struck out two batters in six separate innings, while posting the highest strikeout total since Kevin Ziomek fanned 15 last season. The mark was three shy of Vanderbilt's NCAA Tournament record of 17 set by David Price in 2007.
Beede's final line was nearly flawless: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 14 K.
"I certainly wanted to attack with the fastball and challenge hitters," Beede said. "Certainly that is sometimes how it works out. You can make an adjustment if guys are on your fastball and if not, just stick with what is working for you.
"In the second time going through, we just mixed in some off-speed pitches to get them off-balance a little bit, but other than that, we were just pounding the zone."
Vanderbilt and Xavier were knotted through three inning, and the Commodores held just a 2-0 lead before breaking the game open in the sixth inning. Even though Vanderbilt's lead stood at two, it felt more like 10 with Beede on the bump. He kept Xavier guessing all night long, and prevented any nervous energy from creeping into the Commodores.
"I just like the way he settled the other team down at a time in the fourth or fifth inning when the game was still nip and tuck," Corbin added.
For the Commodores, Beede's performance was a very good sign of possible things to come. His NCAA Tournament struggles from last season have been well documented. He had trouble with his control and didn't last more than 4.0 innings in either of his starts against Illinois and Louisville.
In his final three starts entering Friday's matchup with Xavier, Beede appeared to be leaning toward the same path as last year. He walked at least four batters in each start and was pinned in the loss in two of the three games. On Friday, he gave up just two free bases. His 2013 postseason performance now appears to be well off in the distance of his rear-view mirror.
"I just wanted to enjoy the moment with the players and coaches I was playing with and go have fun," Beede said of his mindset entering this year's NCAA Tournament. "It was obviously a regional game, but I just wanted to pound the strike zone and let the team play."
Beede certainly accomplished all of those goals Friday with one of the most dominating performances of his career.
Against the Musketeers, he had the precision of a surgeon, painting corners, pulling the string out on pitches and blowing the ball past batters with his fastball humming in the upper 90s.
"I think Tyler Beede had his good stuff today," Xavier Head Coach Scott Googins commented. "I heard he had been a little erratic lately. He didn't show that today. I thought his slider was on, and the scouting report said to lay off the slider. Our guys were having a hard time picking it up and he was throwing it for strikes."
The win was Beede's first in the NCAA Tournament, and placed the Commodores into the winner's bracket to face Oregon at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"Regardless of what you do offensively, if you can pitch and play defense in these tournaments, you give yourself a chance and that is all Tyler did and what our defense did."