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Vanderbilt Defeats Louisville 3-2 in 10 Innings; Improbable Comeback Punches Ticket to Tallahassee

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Connor Harrell's safety squeeze - his first hit against Louisville in the Regional - drove home the winning run for the Commodores.
Connor Harrell's safety squeeze - his first hit against Louisville in the Regional - drove home the winning run for the Commodores.

Connor Harrell had yet to record a hit against Louisville in this Regional, so of course he'd be the one to bring home the Super Regional clinching run. With one out in the tenth inning, Harrell drove home Curt Casali from third base with a safety squeeze bunt to first base, pushing the Commodores past the Cardinals and into a match-up with Florida State next weekend. The win clinched Vanderbilt's second ever Super Regional berth and proved that the 'Dores can hang with the nation's elite teams in pressure-filled situations.

For a brief period, it seemed as though Vandy fans were in for a heartbreaking loss. Twice the team held two run leads only to have that margin erased by a UL team that was stacked with great hitters. The biggest concern happened in the ninth inning, as Sonny Gray, nursing a 2-1 lead, failed to close out the Cardinals, walking two batters and allowing a pair of singles. However, with the bases loaded and Louisville threatening to take the lead, Brian Harris stretched out to make a leaping grab of a line drive that would have surely scored at least two runs had it glanced off his glove.

Though the Commodores couldn't immediately capitalize on this momentum shift, Game One starter Taylor Hill was able to come in and shut down the UL bats and allow Vanderbilt the chance for Harrell to deliver the game. As Curt Casali ran across home plate, the contingent of VU fans in the stands erupted while the team exploded from the dugout to celebrate. The Louisville fans, who had been so loud and passionate throughout the Regional, quietly crept from their seats and out of Jim Patterson Stadium.

Before this, however, the 'Dores seemed to be following a familiar pattern of squandered scoring opportunities. Jason Esposito was thrown out at home in the fourth inning when Vandy had runners on second and third base with just one out (though later Joe Loftus would score on a Curt Casali single that slid under the glove of a diving Drew Haynes. The next inning, Vanderbilt loaded the bases with zero outs, only to fall victim to three straight strikeouts by UL ace Thomas Royse. It wouldn't be until the seventh inning that the Commodores would score again, as Jason Esposito came up big with a two-out RBI to reclaim the lead at 2-1.

However, it would be a mistake not to mention the heroic pitching of Grayson Garvin, which kept Vanderbilt in this game by silencing Louisville's bats. Garvin, like Richie Goodenow before him, came into the game as a soft-tossing left handed reliever and left to a hero's welcome after shutting down the host team through six innings. Garvin allowed only one run and three hits and left with the game tied at 1-1. Also important was the defensive play of shortstop Brian Harris and centerfielder Connor Harrell, as both made extraordinary plays to save runs over the course of the game.

Now, the Commodores will head back to Nashville and await their next orders, though it is a safe bet that they will be headed to Tallahassee, Florida to face the Florida State Seminoles. FSU, ranked 12th in the country by USA Today, will present a tough task for Vanderbilt, though possibly an easier draw than the Cardinals were. At any rate, the team will have four days to rest up, celebrate, and get back to the practice field before another chance at college baseball glory.