Vanderbilt’s attempt to reach the College World Series for the second time in school history came up short Sunday.
Now that the artificial dust has settled at the Hawk, you have to give credit where credit is due.
The Louisville Cardinals couldn’t have cared less about the Commodores being the Super Regional’s 2-seed. They didn’t seem to mind at all playing in Vanderbilt’s back yard.
They came, they saw, they out-pitched, out-hit and out-scored the Commodores. The Cards punched their ticket to Omaha and the CWS by beating Vanderbilt two straight games in the best-of-three series.
Vanderbilt could only manage four runs in two games. You don’t deserve to go to the CWS with those numbers, and after all, baseball is a numbers game.
The Commodores lost the series opener, 5-3, and were on the short end of a 2-1 game Sunday, as they tried in vain to tie the series Sunday and play for all the marbles Monday.
“(Sunday’s) game was labor intensive. It was tough. It was a grind,” Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin said. “Certainly holding them to two runs, you would think you have an opportunity to win.”
Vanderbilt had its chances Sunday. But it didn’t get the starting pitching it needed from ace Tyler Beede, who had trouble finding any rhythm, giving up two runs in the bottom of the second inning.
Vanderbilt hitters were bamboozled by Louisville’s pitching. They managed just five hits. The only score came on a solo home run. They left five runners on base in the final three innings. Three of those were stranded in scoring position, including in the top of the ninth when John Norwood was only 90 feet away from tying the game.
SEC Player of the Year Tony Kemp could not deliver in the clutch, as he flied out to left for the second out in the ninth. After Xavier Turner’s single pushed Norwood to third, it was up to senior Mike Yastrzemski, a player with Major League DNA coursing through his body.
This Yaz had been clutch all season, after he returned to Vanderbilt instead of turning pro. Cards reliever Cody Ege got Yastrzemski to swing and miss on a nasty 2-2 pitch in a lefty against lefty matchup.
Vanderbilt’s first five batters combined to go 2-for-20 Sunday. They struck out seven times and got only one free pass in the game.
It had to be difficult for this Vanderbilt team to watch Louisville players jumping, laughing, fist-bumping, high-fiving and giddy as a fourth grader on the last day of school.
Vanderbilt finished 54-12 and now faces a future where it has to replace the nucleus of what I thought was its most balanced team under Corbin. It must also wait to see how many juniors drafted in this month’s Major League amateur draft will sign.
They didn’t match expectations this post-season. They failed to come through in clutch situations, both on the mound and at the plate. Was the pressure to deliver too overwhelming, or was it a case of Louisville having the talent to match Vanderbilt pitch for pitch, hit for hit?
You can claim it was just baseball, but it keeps happening to Corbin’s teams.
Most NCAA baseball teams would love to have had the season Vanderbilt did. It could have been even better. That’s what hurts the worst.