Texas put Vanderbilt’s College World Series hopes on hold.
However, it was more of a case of Vanderbilt losing due to self-inflicted injuries in the first two innings Friday in Omaha.
Today we will see just how resilient this Vanderbilt baseball team is. The first thing it must do is gargle away the bitter taste of Friday’s 4-0 loss out of their mouths.
Coach Tim Corbin opted to start right-hander Tyler Ferguson despite the fact Ferguson’s most recent start was May 17, more than a month.
It backfired early and often. Boy, did it? Anything that could go wrong over the first two innings did. It was over then.
Ferguson was not only rusty. He was covered with barnacles. He had his 95-mile per hour heater. He just never knew where it was going and it bit him big time.
Ferguson hit the leadoff hitter Brooks Marlow in the shoulder to open the bottom of the first inning. He walked Ben Johnson, then hit Mark Payton to load the bases.
He struck out the next batter, but the damage was far from over. Ferguson never located his fastball and C.J. Hinojosa slapped a bases-loaded shot that hit the second base umpire, allowing a run to score.
Collin Shaw struck out for Texas, but Ferguson walked Madison Carter that plated Johnson with the second run of the inning.
Back-to-back triples in the second inning put Texas on top, 3-0. A sacrifice bunt back to reliever Brian Miller pushed the fourth run across after Miller fielded the ball, but failed to hold it after tagging Payton at first.
The ‘Horns had four runs on five hits and some generous gifts from Vanderbilt fielders.
“You know, we helped them a little bit,’’ Corbin said. “We put some guys on base for them. That’s just tough. You don’t want to be playing uphill early in the game like we did.’’
You could tell right away it wasn’t going to be the Commodores’ day. It was very uncharacteristic of them in every facet of the game – pitching, defense and hitting. They didn’t get clutch hits that could have ignited a rally. Those two-out hits they have been executing took the day off.
Vanderbilt never scored, got only six hits. They were stone-walled by Texas pitcher Nathan Thornhill. , who benefitted from a wide strike zone, especially to right-handed hitters.
“I think he was expanding the plate pretty well. It seemed like when he was getting a call on the outer half of the plate, he was able to go back out there again and maybe a couple of inches more,’’ said Corbin.
It seemed when Vanderbilt hitters got the barrel on the ball, it was right at Texas players.
You can’t put blame Vanderbilt’s loss on the umpires. Vanderbilt left its A-game back at the hotel. They also played without starting third baseman Xavier Turner, who was suspended for the rest of the season for violating an unspecified NCAA rule.
Vanderbilt gets a reprieve Saturday, another chance to advance to the championship series.
Baseball is a fickle game. You can be hot one game and no-show the next. Or you can stink it up one game and tear the cover off the ball the next.
Vanderbilt needs to set the tone early Saturday. They need to get on their computers and delete Friday’s loss from their memory. It’s still theirs to win, or lose.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.