Vanderbilt looked to be cruising to an easy victory until the 5th inning, when up 5-1, Hunter “Mr. Manager” Owen started to look a bit shaky. Murillo started things off with a bunt single, LaPlante then flied out, and then Owen temporarily lost control, beaning Anderson, and then walking Tate to load ‘em up with one out.
Though Owen would get out of it relatively unscathed (allowing one run on a sac fly to make it 5-2), had it still been a 3 run lead by the start of the 6th, you have to think Corbs and Brownie would have gone to the pen and brought in Cunningham with a clean inning. Instead, the Dores were momentarily victims of their own success, as they plated three—RBI singles by Noland, Polk, and Vastine—to run the score to 8-2. At this point, even those in the comments thought it wise to bring back Owen in the 6th.
It was not. He proceeded to give up a one out single, BB, and 2B before being pulled for Cunningham with the score 8-3 and runners on 2nd and 3rd.
Here was where things got really dicey, and what might cause Corbs and Brownie to consider only bringing in Cunningham with a clean inning from here on out. With most relievers, if you come in with runners on 2nd and 3rd, and one out, and you give up both of those RISP, that’s pretty par for the course. The great ones with put out the fire, but most would give up one or two of those runs. Cunningham, of course, has been less of a reliever and more of a 2nd starter, piggybacking Carter Holton early in the year for 3-4 IP, and nearly always coming in at the start of an inning. Now that Holton is routinely going deeper into games, Corbs and Brownie have moved him back a day to piggyback Hunter Owen, who though he does have a complete game shutout this year, has traditionally been a guy who will give you 5 strong innings.
Cunningham did yield both of those runs, but more than that, looked unmoored out there in the fireman role. He walked the first hitter to load up the bases, then gave up an RBI single, bringing it to 8-4. With the bases still juiced, Connor Tate then hit a wind aided wall-scraper of a grand slam to tie it up, and though it was quite the gusty day, it appeared the wind had been taken out from our respective sails.
Now here’s why I like this version of the Diamond Dores—the version that showed up once conference play started. Most teams would go into the tank after giving up a 6 run inning that took a game from a comfortable lead to one where your pitchers are looking shaky and the other squad had wrestled the momentum away. Not these boys.
In the bottom of the 6th, The Bulge led things off with a line drive single. Stone Cold was hit by pitch, and then the unflappable freshman who plays like a 5th year senior, Chris “Lil Maldo” Maldonado launched a double which scored Bulger, and then Austin scored following a throwing error. At that point, it was 10-8, and we had effectively delivered the knockout blow. Ugga players had the look of a stunned underdog fighter who had taken the bout 12 rounds, only to be knocked out following a dramatic knockdown of their own. We would then plate one more in the 6th (to make it 11-8) and then 5 more (should have been 7) in the remainder of the game, and damn near run-ruled them. There really are no words for this other than juggernaut, unflappable, and unfazed. Okay, maybe there are a lot of words. I’m excited here. Give me a break.
Regardless, it’s Sunday. Time to wake up and do it again. We’ve got Devin Futrell on the mound. It’s 7am as I type this, and I’m not sure Georgia even knows who their starter will be. We’re 8-0 in the SEC. 9-0 would be better.
On the Mound
Sunday @ 1:00pm CT on SECN+
#95 Vanderbilt So. LHP Devin “The Future” Futrell (4-1; 3.55 ERA)
vs. TBD. Ooh, it could be anyone, even a boat!
See you in the comments.