Mike Yastremski (18) crosses home plate after his three run home run in the fourth inning broke open the game, as Vanderbilt went on to beat Oregon St. 11-1 in the NCAA Super Regionals. (Photo by George Walker IV / The Tennessean)
Vanderbilt jumped Oregon St. early, capitalizing by supplementing three walks with three hits, with all of it coming after two out in the first inning, to take a 4-0 lead, and the Commodores never looked back, enroute to an 11-1 rout of the Beavers.
Another four run inning in the fourth, plus a couple of home runs along the way, and the Commodores moved almost unchallenged within a win of their first ever NCAA baseball Super Regional series win.
Vandy did it by capitalizing on Beaver mistakes, but mostly by doing a better job of finishing their at bats. In all, 11 of 12 runs scored in the game came with 2 outs.
The Commodores got 8 walks to go along with 11 hits, on their way to 11 runs, while the Beavers put had the majority of their batters put the ball in play, but managed only 4 hits, three by Jake Rodriguez, and drew just 2 walks.
Mike Yastrzemski had two hits, scored twice, and had four RBIs to power Vanderbilt, including a three run homer in the fourth inning that opened the lead to 8-0.Vanderbilt (51-10) spent several weeks at the #1 team in the country, and was a top 5 team all year. The Commodores finished in a three way tie atop the SEC East, but lost to Florida in the final of the SEC Tournament.
Oregon St. (41-18) climbed as high as #2 in the country, but fell back out of the top ten with a late season slump. The Beavers finished second in the Pac-10.
MLB draft first rounder Sonny Gray brought in an 11-3 record, and an ERA of 2.01, for Vanderbilt.
Sam Gaviglio, a fifth rounder himself, entered with a 12-2 record, and an even better 1.87 ERA. Both pitchers would leave with 12-3 records.
An SEC record 12 players were drafted from Vanderbilt, while Oregon St. had 8.
The game started with the temperature in the low 90s, and it was still over 80 at game's end, though the humidity started below 40%. It did climb as the temperature slowly dropped though, keeping it warm all evening.
Three up, three down, by the Beavers to start the game, all on ground outs, and the Commodores had their first two batters do the same, as a low strike zone led to a lot of balls pounded into the ground.
But Gaviglio then walked Aaron Westlake, a player who escaped the Pac-10, coming from Shasta High in Redding, CA, and then Curt Casali, and then Yastrzemski, the grandson of former Red Sox great Carl, drove in Westlake with a grounder to center.
Bryan Stamps had Casali thrown out going into third, but Carter Bell couldn't hold onto the ball. Giving Vanderbilt an extra out proved critical, as Jason Esposito capitalized with a single to right that drove Casali in for a 2-0 lead.
Another walk loaded the bases, and then Connor Harrell's single to right produced two more runs, and Vanderbilt had batted around to open the game before Gaviglio finally got a strike out to end the first inning, with the Commodores up 4-0, after giving up 3 walks and 3 hits with 2 out.
Gaviglio threw 33 pitches in the first inning as well, about the last thing Oregon St. Head Coach Pat Casey wanted to see, with #2 starter Josh Osich already out for the weekend, and the pressure already on the Beaver pitching staff under the best of circumstances.
Gray got two more ground outs before Ryan Dunn got a ball up in the air, but a fly to short right field was no more effective against the Commodores' ace.
Gaviglio got a ground out and an easy fly to center, but then walked Westlake a second time. However, yet another grounder got Gaviglio and the Beavers out of the inning.
After yet another groundout, Rodriguez became the eighth Beaver to hit the ball, but the first to get a hit. Stamps too hit the ball, and hard enough that Commodore short stop Anthony Gomez couldn't make what could have been a double play. It didn't matter though, as Gray got Ryan Barnes to ground into a double play to end the top half of the third inning.
Danny Hayes made a great diving play on yet another ground out, and then Gaviglio got his second strikeout, but then issued yet another walk. Harrell couldn't take advantage though, flying out to Stamps in center to end the third inning.
Gray finally got his first strike out, fanning Keyes for the second out of the fourth inning, and another solid defensive play, this one by Vanderbilt second baseman Riley Reynolds, ended the fourth inning.
Riley Reynolds dropped in a single in short center when Stamps mis-read the ball, and Tony Kemp's bunt was successful when the Beavers couldn't handle the ball. Gaviglio got the lead runner on Anthony Gomez's attempt at another sacrifice, but that brought up Westlake again, and Gaviglio walked him for the third time to load the bases.
Casali's ground out drove in the Commodore's fifth run, and then Yastrzemski blew the game open with a three run home run.
It became necessary for Gaviglio to eat innings to save the bullpen in a loss, not a win possibility, as the game took on a look a lot like the first game of the Arizona series, in which the Wildcats got to Gaviglio for his first loss of the season, and eventually an 18-0 win. That series ended well for the Beavers, though, as Oregon St. would come back to take two straight to capture the series, and start an 11 game winning streak.
Hayes singled, but Ryan Dunn's grounder allowed Vanderbilt to erase the lead runner, and Gray fooled Bell for Gray's second strikeout. Rodriguez was one Beaver that Gray had trouble with, as he got his second single of the night.
After a wild pitch, Gray's 14th of the year advanced Dunn to third, but Gray struck out Stamps to end Oregon St.'s first real threat in the fifth inning.
Jared Norris couldn't make the play on a dieing fly to right, and that put Vanderbilt leadoff hitter Conrad Gregor on second. He moved to third on Harrell's grounder to Rodriguez, but had to stay there on another ground out to Rodriguez. Only momentarily though, as Kemp singled to left to make it 9-0 Vanderbilt before still another ground out moved the game to the sixth inning.
Barnes flied out, but Norris drew Gray's first walk, and Michael Miller checked in to run for him. But Keyes also flied out, and Andrew Susac struck out, making the insertion of Miller insignificant.
Miller took over for Norris in right, and caught the first ball of the bottom of the sixth on the warning track, as Westlake finally didn't walk. Casali singled to left, and that finally prompted Oregon St. pitching coach Nate Yeski to pull Gaviglio, who may have thrown his last pitch as a Beaver.
Cam Booser took over for the Beavers, and got Yastrzemski to fly out to Stamps in right center. But Esposito proceeded to drive the next pitch a little farther to left center, and the two run homer made it 11-0 Vanderbilt going to the seventh inning.
Hayes walked, and though Dunn flew out, Bell advanced him to third, and the hot Rodriguez singled again to avert the shutout, and prompt Vanderbilt to relieve Gray, sending Corey Williams on to finish things up.
Rodriguez was 3 for 3, while the rest of the Beavers were 1 for 20 against Gray.
Booser did a good job of auditioning to become the third killer B for the Beavers next season, joining Matt Boyd and Tony Bryant, getting three of four Commodore batters in the seventh, including a pair of fly outs to Stamps.
Williams set the Beavers down in order in the eighth inning, striking out Miller and Keyes for the latter two outs.
After 2 runs, a hit, an RBI, and 8 innings of work behind the plate, Vanderbilt gave Casali a break, and pinch hitter Bryan Johns promptly drew a one out walk. Vanderbilt coach Tim Corban got another player in, pinch hitting Jack Lupo for Yastrzemski as well, and Yeski pulled Booser, in favor of James Nygren.
That came as a surprise, and pretty well ended any thought of Nygren, a senior, getting the second start of the series Saturday.
Esposito also got lifted for pinch hitter Sam Lind, who singled, and Gregor was also hit for. Nygren got a strike out to move the game to its last inning.
Parker Berberet got in, hitting for Hayes, but he flew out, as had Susac. And Dunn did too to end it.
The Commodores showed good plate discipline, drawing nearly as many walks as they got hits, and also doing so much of it late in innings, taking advantage of having watched the earlier pitches in each at bat.
Importantly, Vanderbilt also played error free defensively, allowing Gray and Williams to not pay a penalty for the Beavers' ability to make contact.
It was a good lesson in baseball at the next level for Oregon St., who frequently have gotten a misplayed ball or a bad throw here or there during the season, and made opponents pay for it.
Gray demonstrated how to be overpowering without being overpowering, and if the Beavers are to stay alive, Saturday will require a better job of converting contact into hits.
It seems likely that Scott Schultz (4-0, 3.00 ERA) will get a chance tomorrow, though Ben Wetzler (6-3, 4.66) could also be whom Casey calls on. Both are freshmen, as is Adam Duke, seemingly the only other viable candidate. Welcome to the big time, kids!