Monday, February 26, 2007

Late Inning Heroics Close Music City Classic Sweep for the Commies

Ryan Flaherty can check off one childhood ambition that at one point, every child throughout America has played out in a backyard, empty practice field, or basketball court: being the hero. In Flaherty’s case, as with my own (alas, still not achieved) it was baseball.

Picture this: Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Field and the Commies’ undefeated season is about to be snapped by the Boston College Eagles. It’s been a close game; Vandy has scrapped and clawed its way back into it after getting down early and now are down one. But, it’s the bottom of the ninth and the Commies are down to their final out: time is running out.

With rally caps in full force, the crowd erupts as Pedro Alvarez draws a walk from BC reliever Dan Houston. Most of us would have been in the bleachers, probably hoarse from cheering, but if you were in the Vanderbilt dugout, you would have heard Flaherty tell his team that he’s going to walk out and win the game. Pressure? What pressure? Flaherty works the count to 2-0 before delivering on his promise, sending the next pitch over the right-center wall. Game Over, Vanderbilt wins and remains undefeated! Flaherty: the hero. “He's [Flaherty is] a special kid who doesn't feel pressure” said Coach Corbin after the win.

The Eagles managed to hit Brett Jacobson early, scoring one in the first on a sac fly after Jacobson gave up a lead-off triple. Alvarez, not to be showed up offensively, tied the game on his fifth home run of the season.

Joe Ayers hit a RBI single to take the lead back for the Eagles and they eventually knocked Jacobson out of the game with three runs in the third inning. It was time for the Commies to start crawling back.

Dominic de la Osa hit a solo home run in the fourth to cut the lead to 5-2 and then Parker Hanks cut it to 5-3 in the fifth with an RBI single. In the eighth, the Dores played small ball. Alvarez walked to open the inning and moved to second on a Flaherty single. Both runners advanced on a fundamental bunt by Shea Robin. De la Osa hit a slow roller to first which allowed a head’s up Alvarez to score. BC’s Dan Houston’s next pitch was wild allowing Flaherty to score knotting the game at 5-5, having advanced to third on the de la Osa fielder’s choice.

The Eagles answered with one in the top of the ninth off Casey Weathers to take a 6-5 lead. The rest, is history.

In Friday’s game, the Commies eeked out a win against Pittsburgh, relying on ten strikeout performance by David Price. Pitt jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the third inning after Nick Mullins hit a two-out, two-run RIB single.

The Commies battled back cutting the lead to one in the bottom of the third on a Shea Robin two-run RBI single. The bottom of the fourth began with a Jonathon White double, a Brad French single, and a RBI single by Kurt Lipton to tie the game. Lipton later scored on a fielder’s choice by Alex Feinberg giving Vanderbilt a 4-3 lead they would maintain for the rest of the game.

Coach Corbin, keeping his team focused stated, I told the team, `you had better not take winning for granted because it is not that easy,' "I don't care who you play. It is tough to come by. We were very fortunate tonight. We got a couple of calls to help us out, too. So we were lucky. There was nothing pretty about that game."

Price couldn’t get ahead of hitters, falling behind in the count all day long. He was relieved by Ty Davis after 5.2 innings of work, giving up three runs on five hits.
Davis provided scoreless relief and Casey Weathers came on to finish it in the eighth, striking out the side and recording another strikeout in the ninth for four on the day. Price got the win and is 2-0 on the season.

On Saturday, it was a different story: the Commie bats came alive in a big way, putting up 15 runs on 16 hits as the Commies destroyed Ball State, 15-3. Ball State’s three runs came in the top of the ninth. Nick Christiani was dominant for the Dores, striking out a career high 9, giving up four hits, and allowing four walks. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his past two starts, a 14 inning span.

Kurt Lipton, the Designated Hitter (DH) led the barrage with three hits while David Macias, Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty and Parker Hanks each chipped in with two. The Cardinal staff was not sharp in the contest, giving up 10 walks to the Commie hitters. Unfortunately for Ball State, the sloppiness didn’t stop with the pitchers. The Cardinal fielding had four errors on the afternoon allowing the Commies to score eight unearned runs, more then half the final score.

"We scored in every inning except two, and that is how you apply pressure sometimes," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "It is just by continuing to put guys on base. A lot of it was from walks, but there were some hits. It was kind of a sloppy game, but we'll take it."

The scoring by inning was: 2 in the first, 2 in the third, 5 in the fourth, 1 in the sixth and seventh, and 4 in the eighth.

For the weekend, the Commies racked up 26 runs on 36 hits to their opponents 12 runs on 27 hits. After the season, the Commies actually raised their batting average to .346 and the pitching staff actually lowered the team ERA to 2.90. So far this season, the Commies have pounded out 89 runs on 125 hits to their opponents 35 runs on 71 hits. Teams are only hitting .213 against the Commies who have combined for 105 K’s this season, led by David Price with 28.

The #1 ranked Commies take on in-state rival (kind of?) Austin Peay tomorrow at Hawkins Field before beginning a weekend series with Xavier. Tomorrow’s game is the last game you can purchase tickets for a buck, that is, if you’re in Nashville. You can follow it online with Game Tracker. Simply click on the GT in the schedule under the leader (text).

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