June 18, 2011

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Vanderbilt wins its inaugural CWS contest

Commodores top Tar Heels in first game at TD Ameritrade Park

By Jimmy Jones

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com

(photos by Jimmy Jones)


OMAHA, Neb. - The sixth-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores sure don't act like first-time qualifiers as they continue to write their names into the history books by defeating third- seed North Carolina 7-3 in the inaugural College World Series game at TD Ameritrade Park in front of 22,745 sun-drenched fans on Saturday afternoon.


Both teams scored early in a back-and-forth affair and the Tar Heels (50-15) were able to capitalize on an uncharacteristic bout of wildness from VU starter Sonny Gray to take a 3-2 advantage into the sixth inning.


Gray, the Oakland Athletics' first-round draft choice, was victimized by five walks and gave up eight hits and three runs in 4.2 innings, his second shortest stint in 18 starts since the season opener, before giving way to lefty Corey Williams after walking the bases loaded.


Williams (right) shut the door with a strikeout  and sophomore Connor Harrell (pictured above) provided the offensive impetus for Vanderbilt (53-10) with a towering drive over the left field bullpen in the sixth with a runner aboard to give his squad the lead and the momentum moments after freshman Conrad Gregor tied the game with a double off the wall.


It was the first World Series home run ever recorded at the new $131-million facility and the eighth of the campaign for the Commodores centerfielder.


“We knew [Patrick] Johnson has a pretty good arm,” Harrell said. “He was living off the outside part of the plate and was throwing breaking balls. He left it up per se, and I got it in that jet stream.”


The Dores put two more on the board on back-to-back singles by Tony Kemp, his third hit of the game, and Anthony Gomez to effectively place the game out of reach as Williams, Will Clinard and freshman Kevin Ziomek combined to shut the Tar Heels out the rest of the way.


“That was a big victory for us,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “You never know how you're going to react the first time.


“The fifth inning was the decider. They had 20 guys reach base today. The fact they scored three runs, we're fortunate. Corey's strikeout with the bases loaded was big.”


UNC stranded 16 runners in the contest.


Tar Heel starter Patrick Johnson (13-2) was saddled with the loss. He pitched six innings and allowed just six hits, but the Commodores scored five runs, four earned, to chase him from the game.


“I definitely didn't have my best stuff,” Johnson said. “They're such a good hitting team. You can't leave balls over the middle of the plate. I did that a couple times today, and they made me pay. But I wasn't as sharp as I've been.”


Williams will have his name in the history books in perpetuity as he earned the first win in the new park. He worked 2.2 innings allowing two hits and issued one walk to go along with five strikeouts.


The Commodores await the winner of Saturday night’s Texas-Florida game. They will meet on Monday evening at 6 p.m. CT.