NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Friday’s pitching matchup looked to be a one-sided affair, as first-rounder Tyler Beede was looked upon to stifle the Cardinal lineup and outduel Stanford’s John Hochstatter. That prescription looked about right three innings into the game, but Stanford’s offense made an about-face and chased Beede from the game after 4 2/3 innings, although they later fell to the Commodores by an 11-6 final score. Saturday’s contest looked to be a balanced pitching affair and that was certainly the case – but the final decision would come off the bat of Wayne Taylor in the bottom of the ninth.
Carson Fulmer, arguably the Commodores’ most reliable starter since his insertion to the rotation in late-April, accepted Stanford freshman and staff ace Cal Quantrill’s challenge on Saturday, as both locked themselves in a pitching duel of tit for tat that lasted well in the later innings of the game.
Both led off with a pair of 1-2-3 innings with relative ease, but Quantrill was the first to make a blemish on the afternoon. After retiring both Zander Wiel and Xavier Turner to open the top of the second, Rhett Wiseman unloaded with a deep drive to right that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. A John Norwood grounder to short would have ended the inning for Quantrill, but an errant throw from Tommy Edman allowed Wiseman to score from second for the first run of the game.
Quantrill settled in following the second, but was by no means dominant as Vanderbilt was able to put a runner in scoring position in five of the eight innings the freshman pitched.
As for Fulmer, the right-hander ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth, as Brant Whiting ripped a two-run double to deep right center that scored both Austin Slater and Zach Hoffpauir to give Stanford the 2-1 lead. However, Fulmer responded by grabbing a pair of strikeouts to end the fourth and punched out two more in the fifth to run his tally to nine on the afternoon.
After retiring three of four in the sixth, Fulmer ran into trouble in the seventh, as Wayne Taylor and Brett Michael Doran collected a pair of RBI singles to put the Cardinal up by three runs. Jared Miller entered in relief of Fulmer and surrendered an infield single to Edman to put two runners aboard, but the former-starter got Danny Diekroeger to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
But the Commodores offense had not yet had their fill, opening with an infield single and free pass off Quantrill, chasing him from the game after seven plus frames, as AJ Vanegas entered in relief and struggled with his command. Vanegas walked a total of three batters, including Norwood with the bases juiced to plate the second run of the inning for the Commodores, who cut the lead to a single run.
Brian Miller relieved Jared in the bottom half of the eighth, retiring the side in order and holding the Cardinal in check for the offense to make some noise in the top of the ninth – and the offense took advantage and certainly made some noise.
With Vanegas still on the mound and one out in the inning, Dansby Swanson went down swinging but advanced to first on the wild pitch. A Bryan Reynolds walk and Wiel infield hit loaded the bases for Turner, who would benefit from Vanegas command issues, as the third baseman wore a pitch to bring in Swanson from third and tie the game at 4-4.
But as quickly as the Commodores tied things up in the top half of the inning, Stanford responded with a quick, resonating strike in the bottom half of the frame. After Adam Ravenelle struck out Whiting to open the inning, the Vanderbilt right-hander left one up in Wayne Taylor’s wheelhouse, as the designated hitter crushed the ball to right for the 5-4 walkoff victory and to force a Game 3 tomorrow afternoon.
Vanderbilt and Stanford will compete for a trip to Omaha in Game 3 of the Nashville Super Regional on Sunday, which will be televised at 3:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2.