June 4, 2010

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CBI Live
Vanderbilt outlasts Illinois State in 13

By Jimmy Jones

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com

(photos by Jimmy Jones)


LOUISVILLE, Kentucky--It had all the elements of a good Clint Eastwood movie when the Illinois State Redbirds and Vanderbilt Commodores squared off in Game 1 of the Louisville Regional Friday afternoon.


It was good because both teams played their hearts out for 13 innings in sweltering heat in front of an overflow crowd.


It was bad because despite leaving it all on the field and playing well enough to win on most days, one team had to lose.


It was ugly because a blown call at first base, which cost the Commodores a run that would have been the difference in regulation, allowed the game to be extended in the first place.


VU won the game 8-7 in the most improbable way imaginable in the bottom of the 13th inning when head coach Tim Corbin found himself out of right-handed pinch-hitters and called upon pitcher Jack Armstrong (above) to hit with Andrew Giobbi, who doubled to lead off the inning, on second base and Curt Casali on first after an intentional walk to keep the force in play for the Redbird defense.


Armstrong, who had exactly two at-bats for the season, promptly lined a single into right field to score Giobbi (left), whose outstanding read on the throw allowed him to slide around the catcher Matt Mirabal's sweeping tag with the winning run to end the longest NCAA game in school history for Vanderbilt.


"Coach (Josh) Holliday told me to get ready by the 7th or 8th inning," said Armstrong. "Mentally I was trying to get prepared. Actually I visualized that exact hit. I don't know how it happened but it was kind of fate to be honest with you. I listened to the other guys to figure out what the pitcher was doing and took a nice opposite field approach and let fate turn out that way."


"Tough ballgame," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "Sometimes they're not easy. It's good to get the first one and get in that winner's bracket. I would just have to say the highlight of it was the pitching that we received after the third inning. I thought our relief pitching was outstanding. The defense, during the course of the game, turned two double plays. Those were the difference right there."


"Our offense just battled, and it was good to see a kid come off the bench who hits every day and doesn't necessarily get the repetitions on the field. He got a big hit when we needed it most. He drove the ball down the right field line and Andrew made a very nice slide at the plate. It was a tough, tough ballgame. Tough for Illinois State and good for us. We have to go home and rest and look forward to tomorrow."


The Redbirds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first with the help of two Commodore miscues. Starter Taylor Hill plunked leadoff hitter Kevin Tokarski to begin the rally. Jake Thornton singled to left and Matt Mirabal walked to load the bases. Hill got Anthony Ruffolo to pop out before Ryan Court hit a deep fly to center that a normally sure-handed Connor Harrell misjudged, ran in, and then back, in an effort to make the catch. He was in position to make the catch, but the ball glanced off his glove allowing three runs to score.


The Commodores cut the lead to 3-2 on a RBI single by Giobbi in the third and added a second run on a base-loaded walk to Brian Harris.


ISU bumped the margin to 6-2 with three in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Chad Hinshaw and a RBI double by Brett Kay to end Hill's day on the bump. Left-hander Grayson Garvin came on in relief and gave up a RBI single to Jake Thornton to account for the final tally of the inning.


VU cut into the lead in the fourth with two runs to make it 6-4. Harris led off with a walk, and Aaron Westlake followed suit. Jason Esposito then scorched a line drive to left that hit the top of the wall and bounced back in for a double to score Harris. Joe Loftus grounded to the right side to score Westlake.


Westlake launched a massive two-run homer over the left-centerfield wall after an Anthony Gomez leadoff double in the sixth to tie the game. Jason Esposito hit a grounder into the hole at short and appeared to have clearly beaten the throw to first but was called out before Joe Loftus lofted a solo homer to right-center to give the Commodores their first lead of the game.


A solo homer by Mirabel (left) to right field in the top of the seventh tied the game at 7-7 for the Redbirds.


Drew Hayes picked up the win with two scoreless innings of relief for Vanderbilt.


The Commodores will play Louisville Saturday at 4 p.m. in the second round. The Redbirds meet Saint Louis at noon in an elimination game.