June 8, 2013
Two times during the regular season, Vanderbilt dropped the opening game of a three-game series. Each time, the Commodores won the remaining two games and claimed the series. Will history repeat itself a third time?
After losing 5-3 to Louisville Saturday at Hawkins Field, Vanderbilt is now faced with a win-or-go-home situation Sunday when the same two teams meet at 3 p.m. A Vanderbilt win extends the series to Monday, but a loss ends the season and sends Louisville to Omaha.
The Commodores faced a similar situation last week in a winner-take-all game against Georgia Tech in the Nashville Regional. This time, Vanderbilt will need to stave off elimination twice. But don't expect the Commodores to wilt like a daisy with the season on the line.
"We've been here before and we know what we need to do to get back," outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said. "And sometimes when we have a close game that falls the other way, it helps us in a sense because we just snap right back to where we started and we just kind of contain ourselves and we contain our emotions. By doing that, we are just going to be able to come out and play loose and free like we have all season."
That's exactly what the Commodores did in Monday's elimination game against Georgia Tech. Vanderbilt left very little to doubt in defeating the Yellow Jackets 7-1.
Vanderbilt's two series opening loses this season came to Florida and Georgia. The Commodores outscored the Gators and Bulldogs 31-10 in the remaining two games to win both series. Vanderbilt lost the opening game of the SEC Tournament, but rallied to advance to the championship game.
After the game, Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin resorted to a boxing analogy, calling the Super Regionals a "three-round fight," which the Commodores are still very much in.
"They won the first round, that's it," Corbin said. "They didn't knock us out and that's not going to happen. I like my bunch, I do. This situation here ... we were in the same situation before we started today: 18 innings to win. We've just got to concentrate on winning pockets of the game, that is it."
Turner Has Big Day
Playing in the first Super Regional game of his career, Vanderbilt freshman Xavier Turner looked anything but a freshman Saturday.
The Vanderbilt third baseman led the Commodores' offensive attack with two hits and two runs.
Turner got Vanderbilt's first hit of the game in the first inning. He then stole second base and eventually scored the first run of the game on a single by Conrad Gregor.
Turner came to the dish again when he led off the third inning. And again, he came through with a single. Turner followed by stealing second and scoring on a single by Connor Harrell.
"He did a nice job of barreling the ball, getting on base and then being very aggressive once he gets on base," Corbin said. "He is a good, good base runner. He did a nice job of setting the table early."
Racking up Stolen Bases
Vanderbilt continued its aggressive base running on Saturday against Louisville. The Commodores had six stolen bases on six attempts. Xavier Turner and Connor Harrell each had two stolen bases.
Mike Yastrzemski had his 20th stolen base of the season, giving Vanderbilt four players with at least 20 steals.
Tony Kemp also stole his team-best 33rd base Saturday.
"We will just do what we have to do to move runners," Corbin said. "If it means hitting or stealing that is what we will do. It didn't help us in someways, but we were aggressive and I like the way the kids ran the bases for the most part."
Fulmer Unavailable Saturday
Vanderbilt freshman reliever Carson Fulmer was unavailable to pitch Saturday. The right-hander suffered a freak injury while stretching with an exercise band before the game.
"He was band stretching and the band snapped off his foot and hit him in the face, hit him in the eye," Corbin said. "Weird injury. Frustrating. Not much you can do about it."
Fulmer's status for the rest of the series is unknown.
Sunday's Probable Pitching Matchup
Sunday will likely pit two outstanding pitchers head-to-head with one another. Tyler Beede is expected to get the call for the Commodores and Jeff Thompson is slated to go for Louisville. Beede is 14-0 this season with a 2.20 ERA. Thompson is 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA.