NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Rylan Bannon hit a grand slam in a 13-run seventh inning as Xavier upset top-seeded Vanderbilt 15-1 on Saturday in their NCAA Tournament opener.
Xavier (31-28) will play UC Santa Barbara in the winner’s bracket Saturday night. The Musketeers won for the 17th time in 19 games thanks to 40 minutes in the top of the seventh where the Big East champs batted around twice.
This was the first game for Vanderbilt (43-18) since freshman pitcher Donny Everett drowned while on a fishing trip on Thursday. His teammates waited out a storm delay Friday night of more than two hours before their NCAA opener against Xavier was postponed until Saturday.
Baseball and being together in the locker room at least gave them a break from an emotionally draining few days.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said his Commodores wanted to try to play.
“We could’ve not played,” Corbin said. “I’m not so sure that would’ve been a healthy thing for the kids. It may have set them back. When you go through something like this, I don’t have the answers. There’s not a textbook. I’m just trying to work through it as best we can. I still believe that was the best thing to do to help them and to work through the emotions.”
Everett, 19, Tennessee’s Gatorade player of the year in 2015, went fishing with two teammates and two other people after practice Thursday. He tried to swim across Normandy Lake near a bridge and was halfway across when he asked for help. Friends told a Coffee County Sheriff’s deputy they thought Everett was joking because he was smiling.
One person went into the water and pulled Everett several feet before letting go, still thinking Everett was joking while struggling to stay afloat himself. When he looked back, Everett had gone under and did not re-surface from the lake located about 60 miles southeast of Nashville.
Divers with the Coffee County Rescue Squad found Everett just before 7 p.m. Thursday in 25 feet of water, some 15 feet from shore. His body was taken to Nashville for autopsy by the state medical examiner.
Corbin informed his Commodores of Everett’s death Thursday night, and the coach said the team was trying to comfort the teammates, fellow pitchers Ryan Johnson and Chandler Day, who went on the fishing trip.
“They understand the level of guilt that those two kids have thrown upon themselves, and they’re trying to help them through that,” Corbin said.
The Commodores boarded buses to visit Everett’s family in Clarksville before heading to their stadium Friday.
The game was eventually postponed because of weather, but the team continued to honor Everett during Saturday’s game. The Commodores left a spot open in memory of Everett during pregame introductions and had his jersey in the dugout against a team they swept in three games in March.
Vandy also beat Xavier 11-0 to start the run to its 2014 national title.
Vanderbilt committed four errors against the Musketeers. Xavier starter Zac Lowther gave up one run on four hits and three walks over seven innings, striking out eight.