A distracted Vanderbilt team couldn't match Xavier's focus on Saturday, and it cost them in an 15-1 Musketeer rout in the Nashville Regional. Now, the Commodores will have to beat Washington later in the afternoon to avoid elimination in the NCAA Tournament.
Vanderbilt's four errors were a stark contrast to Xavier's sterling defense. The Musketeers made several eye-opening plays in the field to keep the home team off the basepaths. This game remained close until a 13-run seventh inning demoralized the Commodores and pushed them to a loser-goes-home matchup on Saturday evening.
Xavier struck first in the fourth inning when a Bryan Reynolds bobble in center field gave Rylan Bannon the space he needed to score from second base. Vanderbilt tied the game with a rally in the fifth inning. Alonzo Jones walked to lead off the inning and was bunted to second base before Ethan Paul's two-out single to right field made this game 1-1.
Xavier responded minutes later. Daniel Rizzie doubled down the right field line and appeared to be stranded at second when Andre Jernigan struck out swinging for the inning's third out, but the pitch got away from catcher Jason Delay. Delay airmailed the throw to first base, and Rizzie came to home plate on the rare run-scoring strikeout.
The Musketeers capitalized on more Commodore mistakes in the seventh to pad their lead. A walk and then a Sheffield throwing error put a pair of runners on base. A bunt single loaded the bases with zero outs, but a ground ball to third base gave the 'Dores the chance to erase two baserunners and keep Xavier off the board. But Toffey booted the play, and the visitors kept the bases loaded with a 3-1 lead.
Then, things got even worse. Bannon crushed the third pitch of his at-bat into the right-center bleachers for a grand slam that sucked the life out of Hawkins Field. That was the end of Jordan Sheffield's day; the Commodore ace's solid outing unraveled by shoddy defense.
Matt McGarry entered the game in relief and allowed three more runs -- including two that scored on bases loaded walks -- to extend Xavier's big inning. Maddux Conger took over and allowed a single, another pair of walks, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to push the XU lead to 15-1. In all, the Musketeers scored five runs in the inning without even having to swing their bats.