Vanderbilt and Radford will meet for the first time ever on Monday afternoon, but this isn't a normal weekday game against a low-major opponent in Nashville. One win against the Highlanders will send Vandy to baseball's sweet sixteen.
The 2-0 Commodores will face off with the 2-1 Big South champions and a Super Regional bid is on the line. If Vandy can beat Radford this afternoon, they'll move on to the next round of the 2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament. If not, the two teams will return to the diamond at Hawkins Field to play a deciding game seven under the lights.
Weather stripped the Commodores of a chance to play a tired Radford team on Sunday night, but they aren't complaining about it like LSU did last night. Vanderbilt has bigger things to worry about with Mitchell McKeith likely to take the mound for the Highlanders. McKeith's stats don't look like much - a 4.41 ERA and 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings - but he fits the profile of pitcher that has killed the 'Dores this season - the dreaded soft-tossing lefty.
McKeith didn't look great in his last postseason appearance. He lasted only four innings in the Big South title game and left the mound with the Highlanders trailing 4-1. However, his team rallied back with runs in the eighth and ninth innings to deliver a dramatic 5-4 victory that punched Radford's tournament ticket. He'll look to bounce back against a Vandy team that has yet to figure out how to hit left-handed junkballers. Pitchers like Belmont's Patrick McGrath (twice!) and Florida's A.J. Puk shut down this Vanderbilt offense in 2015. If McKeith can join that list of enigmatic hurlers, he'll extend the Highlanders' season by a few hours.
Vanderbilt will counter with Sunday starter Walker Buehler and a bullpen full of fresh relievers. Buehler was shaky in his last outing against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. He got tagged for three early runs and allowed eight baserunners over four innings. However, the shutout relief pitching of John Kilichowski gave the 'Dores the space they needed to lay a 12-3 beating on the Aggies. Expect Buehler to have a similarly short leash if Vandy has a chance to shut the door on Radford early. Kilichowski, Jordan Sheffield, Ryan Johnson, and Tyler Ferguson are all waiting in the Commodore bullpen with zero Regional miles on their odometers. Expect one of those four to be slotted in for a game seven start should the Highlanders win the first matchup.
First pitch is slated for 3pm CST. You can watch live on the SEC Network and follow along with us in the comments below.
Vanderbilt: Walker Buehler (3-2, 3.18 ERA, 74 strikeouts in 73.2 innings)
Radford: Mitchell McKeith (7-4, 4.41, 41 in 81.2)