After trailing 6-0 after less than two innings, it seemed easy to write Vanderbilt off. But the 'Dores didn't quit, got back into the game, and even twice took the leads in what looked like would be the team's first Super Regional victory - but it wasn't to be. All-American Mike McGee's two-out walk-off home run scored the game's deciding run to deliver a win for Florida State Friday afternoon, giving the team a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Vanderbilt showed an offensive prowess that had been largely absent in the team's postseason play, belting four home runs and coming up with nine two-out hits for the day. Twice the team took the lead on solo home runs by Jason Esposito and Mike Yastrzemski, only to have FSU answer in the bottom of the inning. Curt Casali led the Commodore offense with a 4-for-5 showing, including a home run and a double.
The Commodores looked as though they'd be in big trouble early on, as starting pitcher Taylor Hill was mostly ineffective in the first two innings, allowing six hits and six runs through just 1.1 frames. However, the junior righty soon calmed down and held the FSU bats scoreless for the next three innings that followed, allowing Vandy to climb back into the game. Casali's home run started the scoring, followed by a two-out rally in the fifth inning that featured four straight hits - singles from Anthony Gomez and Aaron Westlake and RBI doubles from Jason Esposito and Curt Casali - to pull the FSU lead to 6-4.
Vandy tied the game for the first time since it was 0-0 in the sixth, plating two runners on a Joe Loftus home run and an Anthony Gomez single which scored Yastrzemski. The team then took the lead in the seventh on Espo's home run, only to have the Seminoles answer; after a wild pitch moved runners into scoring position, James Ramsey's sacrifice fly knotted the game at 7-7. Yaz responded in the eighth with a solo shot to reclaim the lead, but his efforts were matched by Jayce Boyd, who hit a towering fly ball out of the park off Chase Reid to even the score again.
The Commodore bats were finally silenced in the ninth inning, and the Seminole hitters showed signs of figuring out Reid. After two hard hit fly balls were chased down by Connor Harrell at the warning track, left fielder McGee left no doubt about the inning's third well-hit ball, depositing it over the fence for a walk off home run. Reid, for his efforts, picked up the loss, while FSU's sidewinding reliever Daniel Bennett took home the victory after two innings of effective pitching.
Vanderbilt will have their backs against the wall in tomorrow's game, where it will be win-or-go-home for the 'Dores. However, this may be a blessing for VU, as they've played their best ball in elimination games this tournament (3-0). The team should be counting on number one starter Sonny Gray to come up big in the season's biggest game, while Florida State will likely counter with
lefty John Gast Brian Busch. First pitch will be at 1:00 PM Eastern, and since the USA's World Cup game will be on ABC, the Commodore/Seminole showdown will be broadcast on ESPN.