Thanks to Vanderbilt's Grays, the Commodores are just one win from their first ever College World Series trip. Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin shut down a strong Florida State offense to force a deciding game three in the Tallahassee Super Regional Saturday afternoon. Vanderbilt led wire-to-wire in their fourth straight win in elimination games this NCAA Tournament, defeating the Seminoles 6-2.
The 'Dores struck first, taking advantage of back-to-back errors to score a pair of runs in the first. Jason Esposito extended the team's lead in the third with a solo home run to deep center field, his second long bomb in as many games. The Seminoles got back in the game with a solo shot of their own by Jayce Boyd (his second of the series) in the fifth, and then threatened in the sixth as Sonny Gray and the Commodores couldn't catch a break from the umpires. A tight strike zone took away what looked to be a pair of strikeouts by the sophomore righthander, and a blown call at first took away an amazing series of plays by Esposito and Aaron Westlake to load the bases.
Vandy was in trouble when #9 hitter Rafael Lopez singled with the bases juiced, but Joe Loftus fired a bullet from right field to nail the runner coming from second base at the plate, limiting FSU to just one run and maintaining the Commodore lead at 3-2. Throughout the game Florida State threatened with dink singles and ground balls through the gap, but never really found a groove against Gray, who threw heats into the high 90s throughout his six inning of work. Grayson Garvin, who came on in the seventh inning, was just as effective, scattering three hits in his three innings of work.
Leading 3-2, the Commodores struggled to add insurance runs until the eighth inning. After stranding batters in the sixth and seventh innings, the team broke through with three runs to push the lead to 6-2 and put the final nails in FSU's coffin. After Anthony Gomez led off with a double, a strikeout and intentional walk brought up Curt Casali, who has been arguably the team's hottest hitter in Tallahassee. Casali ripped a double that was inches away from clearing the fence to score Gomez, making the score 4-2. Cas's heroics were followed by a successful safety squeeze by Andrew Giobbi and a two-out single from Mike Yastrzemski to push the lead to 6-2.
The lead was all Garvin needed, as he cut through the top of the Seminoles' lineup without much drama. The Commodores finally recorded their first ever Super Regional victory and got one step closer to a trip to Omaha. With the win, the team will battle Florida State once again in a winner-moves-on rubber match tomorrow at 1 pm Eastern time. All signs point to fireballer Jack Armstrong taking the mound for the 'Dores, but Coach Tim Corbin may still have some tricks up his sleeve yet.