On April 16, 1972, against South Alabama, Vanderbilt connected for six home runs. Though that mark had been tied three times — against Belmont in 1985, Samford in 1987, and Valparaiso in 1991 — the single-game home runs record had stood for 46 years until Sunday night when it came crashing down.
Vanderbilt not only shattered its own school record, it tied the record for most home runs in a NCAA Tournament game with nine home runs in a 19-6 win over Clemson, advancing the Commodores to the Super Regional round for the second year in a row and the seventh time in the last nine years.
Clemson came into the game with a pitching staff that had been exhausted getting through the first three games of the regional; the Tigers went with freshman Spencer Strider, who’d made just five starts this season and allowed 32 walks in 48.2 innings entering the game. Stephen Scott set the tone for the night early, hitting one to the Cajun Cafe beyond the right field fence to give Vanderbilt an early 1-0 lead.
From there, power came from an unexpected source. In the third inning, with the score still 1-0, Connor Kaiser took a hanging slider and deposited it fifteen rows into the left field bleachers to make it 4-0. The next batter, Philip Clarke, extended the lead to 5-0 by poking one over the left field fence.
Clemson would get a couple of runs back in the fourth with a two-run homer off the bat of Chris Williams, but in the fifth, Clarke make it 6-2 on his second home run of the night. And in the 6th inning, Kaiser launched his second homer of the night, a grand slam that turned the game into a laugher.
But with five homers through six innings, the Commodores were within sight of the record — and weren’t about to stop. Scott tied the record with a solo shot in the 7th — his second homer of the game — and then Kaiser knocked his third later in the inning to break the record, an incredible feat for a guy who had hit just three homers all season (and four in three years at Vanderbilt) entering tonight’s game.
Then, for good measure, Julian Infante and Harrison Ray added homers in the 8th inning, giving Vanderbilt nine for the evening. The nine home runs tied a NCAA Tournament record that had been set by Southern Illinois back in 1969, and tied by Arkansas in 2010.
Mason Hickman was the winning pitcher for Vanderbilt, moving his record on the season to 8-2, though lost in the offensive explosion was the fact that Hickman allowed five runs in five innings of work. Vanderbilt will now await the winner of the Tallahassee Regional — either Mississippi State or Oklahoma -- and may get to play the Super Regional at Hawkins Field next weekend.