Comeback Commodores

Vanderbilt rallies to earn spot in College World Series finals

OMAHA, Neb. – Vanderbilt’s ninth-inning heroics — including the eventual game-winning RBI-double from Pat DeMarco that capped a 3-2 comeback victory against Louisville — lifted the Commodores to their third College World Series finals appearance in six seasons.

Vanderbilt’s Ethan Paul clubbed a game-tying RBI-double into the right field corner in the ninth, scoring JJ Bleday (walk) from first and DeMarco chopped an RBI-double down the left field line to erase a one-run deficit and put the Commodores ahead one.

Paul scooped a grounder and cut down Louisville’s Trey Leonard at the plate to preserve a one-run lead in the seventh. The momentum was short lived, however, as an errant Ty Duvall throw sailed into left, tying the game, and Lucas Dunn sent a single up the middle for a 2-1 advantage.

Jake Eder picked up the win with 2.0 frames of relief for the Commodores. He gave up one earned run on three hits before giving way to closer Tyler Brown. Brown put the finishing touches on the Cardinals by fanning two of four batters pitch for his program-record 17th save on the season.

The Commodores (57-11) used some aggressive base running to open the scoring in the third. After drawing a seven-pitch leadoff walk, Harrison Ray raced to third on looped single into center. The junior came home on batter later as Julian Infante grounded into the double play.

Vanderbilt starter Mason Hickman shook off early command issues, stranding a man at second (hit by pitch) in the first and two more in the second. The right-hander retired 12 of his next 13 batters faced including eight straight between the second and the fifth.

Hickman limited the Cardinals (51-18) to 0-for-6 with runners aboard and 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. The Hendersonville, Tennessee, native did not allow a leadoff man to reach while limiting Louisville to two hits in six scoreless innings while fanning three and walking a pair.

It marked Hickman’s third scoreless start of the season. The sophomore has not allowed more than two earned runs in 10 consecutive appearances including nine starts while tossing five-plus innings for the fourth time in his last five starts.

Luke Smith hurled 8.1 innings of four-hit ball for Louisville, fanning 10 while giving up three earned runs.

The Commodores look for their second national championship in program history when the club opens the best-of-three finals against Michigan on Monday. All finals’ games, which run Monday through Wednesday (if necessary) will be 6 p.m. starts and will air on ESPN.