June 2, 2013
For the second season in a row and for the fourth time in the last five seasons, Vanderbilt will face a do-or-die scenario in a decisive game of an NCAA Regional Monday when the Commodores and Georgia Tech meet for the second time in less than 24 hours at Hawkins Field.
On Sunday, Vanderbilt's offense was completely kept in check by Georgia Tech right-hander Josh Heddinger, who tossed a complete game, two-hit shutout in a 5-0 win. It was only the second time this season Vanderbilt's vaunted offensive attack was held scoreless, and it came after the Commodores had scored 19 runs in its first two NCAA Tournament games.
Although the hits didn't fall, the Commodores were not without their share of hard hit balls. But all except two of Vanderbilt's solidly struck balls were either right at a Georgia Tech defender or resulted in great glove work by the Yellow Jackets.
"We had a lot of hard hit balls; they just didn't fall tonight," Vanderbilt second baseman Tony Kemp said.
Additionally, the Commodores were not able to take advantage of Heddinger's inconsistency to throw strikes. He walked six batters, including two with two outs in the fourth and fifth inning. But each time, Vanderbilt was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
Vanderbilt's best scoring opportunity came in the first inning when Tony Kemp singled, stole second and reached third after tagging up on a fly out by Xavier Turner. However, Mike Yastrzemski followed with a strikeout, Connor Harrell walked and Conrad Gregor lined out to left field.
"Games like these are anomalies; I don't think they happen much," Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin said. "And I tend to think that our team reacts very well to games like these. They have in the past and I suspect they will do it again. It's a tough group."
Vanderbilt faced a somewhat similar situation a little more than a week ago at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. The Commodores suffered a 5-0 loss to Texas A&M and rebounded to defeat South Carolina, 4-3 in 10 innings en route to advancing to the SEC Tournament Championship.
Vanderbilt will hope to have a similar answer to a shutout on Monday. Only this time, the season will be on the line for both teams. The team understands it is now a one-game season, but know the importance of approaching it just as they would any other game.
"It's not another game because it is a finalization for both teams," Corbin said. "I think outside of that, yeah, routine will be about the same. How we line up for this one and how we approach it will be the same way."
"It's lose or go home now," catcher Spencer Navin said. "But I think it is just like any other game. We are going to come out ready to go just like they are and it is going to be a battle."
Georgia Tech finds itself one game from the Super Regionals after being just three outs from heading back to Atlanta.
Illinois held a 4-3 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning against the Yellow Jackets in an elimination game Sunday afternoon. Georgia Tech rallied with four runs in the ninth and kept the momentum rolling when facing the Commodores. Coming back from the brink of elimination and then shutting out Vanderbilt has given the Yellow Jackets a jolt of confidence heading into Monday.
"Right now, I think we have them on their backs and in the corner and hopefully we can just keeping doing the same stuff we are doing and we will be fine," Georgia Tech outfielder Kyle Wren said.
Last year, Vanderbilt was in a nearly identical situation in Raleigh, N.C. The Commodores defeated UNC-wilmington and regional host N.C. State the first two days and needed just one win to advance to the Super Regionals. NC State pushed home a late run to defeat Vanderbilt, 6-5, and force a winner-take-all game for the regional crown.
The next day, NC State scored six runs over the final six inning for the win and advanced to the Super Regionals. Vanderbilt vividly remembers the heartbreak felt a year ago and wants to cleanse itself of those memories just as it does of Sunday's performance.
"We'll sleep it off and take a good shower and make sure we wash everything off," Corbin stated.