The baseline expectations for Richie Goodenow's spot start against a Louisville team that hung 6 earned runs on Sonny Gray were pretty modest. Needing just a quality start to satisfy fans and teammates, the junior from Nashville went above and beyond all expectations. Goodenow made a name for himself nationally with a complete game, two-hit shutout to tear down Louisville and set up a Regional deciding Game Seven tomorrow night at Jim Patterson field.
Goodenow was nearly unhittable all day, keeping batters off balance with a mix of breaking pitches that the Cardinals never caught up with. Louisville only hit a few balls solidly all day, and many of those ended up in foul territory as Vanderbilt's undercover ace baffled opposing hitters. The lefthander ended the game with five strikeouts and just two walks, all while finishing the Cardinals off in just 99 pitches.
The other story of the day was the resurgence of Vanderbilt's offense, as the Commodores came alive with a string of two-out RBIs that broke the game open in the fifth inning. After a standard VU double play squashed a rally in the fourth, the 'Dores responded in the next frame with a leadoff single and then a pair of walks that chased UL starter Justin Amlung from the game. Down to their final out of the inning, Vandy used a pair of singles from Aaron Westlake and Jason Esposito to plate three runs. As reliever Bob Revesz was pulled, new pitcher Tyler Mathis walked Joe Loftus, clearing the way for Andrew Giobbi to bust out of his recent slump with a two-RBI single.
The burst of clutch hitting was a drastic contrast to yesterday's game with Louisville, where the Commodores wasted opportunities to score with runners on base with timid batting. After a weak performance to start their game against Illinois State, Vanderbilt was able to carry the momentum of that game's ninth inning run-scoring outburst into what was their most important game of the season. Vandy added an insurance run on a Curt Casali single in the eighth.
Of course, the title of "Most Important Game of the Season" will only last for about 23 more hours, as now the 'Dores will prepare to face Louisville in a rubber match to determine who will advance to a NCAA Super Regional. The momentum is clearly in Vanderbilt's favor, as the roles in yesterday's demoralizing loss have been reversed - though today's game shows that momentum can be a fickle factor. The question that remains now is who will get the start on either side for tomorrow's deciding game? Can Louisville ace Thomas Royse throw on short notice? Will the Commodores turn to a tired Taylor Hill? In fact, who does Vandy have right now that's fresh aside from Russell Brewer?
Questions surround tomorrow's game, but the one that has disappeared is whether or not Vanderbilt belonged here. With a 7-0 win today, they proved their mettle. If their bats can carry over this performance to Monday, then we'll be in for one hell of a game.