June 15, 2014
Like clockwork, it happened again for Vanderbilt on Saturday. Throughout the postseason, Vanderbilt has not only received lights-out pitching performances, it has also had an incredible knack for delivering on offense with two outs.
Against Louisville on Saturday, the lethal combination was on full display. The Commodores delivered four backbreaking runs with two outs in an inning to help defeat the Cardinals, 5-3.
"They seemed to mount some two-out rallies, and it's a big momentum swing," Louisville Head Coach Dan McDonnel said. "A two-out hit, two-out RBI is big momentum, and it gave them a lot of energy and a lot of life."
The four runs by Tim Corbin's squad were the first runs scored in the game by either team and gave Vanderbilt a huge cushion on a night when the wind was a major factor and a four-run lead seemed more like an eight-run advantage.
As baseballs were hit into the air, they quickly lost steam. The wind was relentless, blowing in hard from center field at 20-25 MPH throughout the game.
Vanderbilt added another run in the seventh inning for insurance, but the four runs scored with two outs were more than enough behind the stellar pitching performance by the Commodores. Carson Fulmer won his seventh start in eight tries and Adam Ravenelle picked up the save by shutting down Louisville the last 2-1/3 innings.
By defeating Louisville, Vanderbilt advanced to the winner's bracket in the College World Series and will face UC Irvine at 7 p.m. Monday.
Vanderbilt has been the beneficiary of timely hits throughout the postseason. In fact, the Commodores have made a living off it.
Heading into Saturday, Vanderbilt had scored 18 two-out runs in six games. The four scored against the Cardinals brings Vanderbilt's total to 22 runs in seven games. Each two-out run cuts deep and is all a part of Vanderbilt systematically breaking down its opponents.
"I think any momentum swing in this tournament is a big deal because, as (McDonnell) said, the runs, they're tough to come by," Corbin said. "We were fortunate tonight in a lot of ways."
The Commodores have mastered this craft, and Saturday it proved to be the difference in the ball game.
"They were just tough outs," McDonnell continued about the Commodores, "very competitive, and seemed to put a lot of pressure on us, and like I said, seemed to get things going with two outs, which hurts because you feel like you're one pitch away from running off the field and getting ready to score runs."
Vanderbilt's first two-out run came in the bottom of the second inning after Jon Norwood scored on a wild pitch. Norwood reached base on a two-out walk and advanced to third on a Ro Coleman single and Karl Ellison walk.
After Ellison's walk, Dansby Swanson stepped to the plate and swatted a double to the gap in left, scoring Coleman and Ellison. Just like that, Vanderbilt was out to a 3-0 lead.
The Commodores scored their fourth run of the game with two outs in the fourth inning when Bryan Reynolds tripled to the gap in right, scoring Swanson.
Dating back to the start of Super Regionals, Vanderbilt has now scored at least three two-out runs in four straight games.
Since the NCAA Tournament began, the Commodores have been swinging their bats the best they have all season. Timely hits are a big reason why the offense is clicking, and it is the result of better approaches at the plate.
"We've done a good job of getting deep into the counts, more walks, less strikeouts, and we've hit the ball," Corbin remarked. "We've really hit the ball well the last three weeks."
If that continues, Vanderbilt could be in store for a very long stay in Omaha.