June 7, 2010

*Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Connor Harrell's RBI squeeze bunt base hit in the bottom of the 10th inning lifted Vanderbilt to a 3-2 win over Louisville in Monday night's championship game of the NCAA Louisville Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The Commodores improved to 45-18 on the year and will advance to the NCAA Super Regionals for the second time in school history (2004 at Texas).

VU will travel to Tallahassee, Fla., to take on Florida State in a best of three game series starting on Friday, June 11 at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2. The second game is scheduled for Saturday at Noon CT on ESPN and the Sunday game, if necessary, will be at Noon CT on ESPN as well.

Curt Casali was hit by Louisville ace closer Neil Holland with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning. Mike Yastrzemski then reached on an infield single to second and Casali moved to third on the play. Harrell then laid down a squeeze bunt towards first base that no one was able to field, allowing Casali to score from third to win the game.

"Well, going up to the plate, I kind of knew, I had an idea it was going to happen," said Harrell. "It actually kind of freaked me out, I had only bunted once this season. I got the sign, laid a bunt down and won the game. Pretty simple. I saw it get past the pitcher and I was already in celebration mode."

The Commodores never trailed throughout the game and twice held one run leads.

"Well, I don't where to start really," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin after the game. "From an emotional standpoint, I'm just really, really happy for the kids. The kids and the coaches who put so much time into this and coming into an environment which is very difficult and to get through this thing, through the backdoor actually, to lose to them and come back and have to beat Illinois State again and beat Louisville again and then get to the championship game. They're a very, very good team."

Taylor Hill threw a scoreless 10th with a strikeout to pickup the win to move to 6-5 on the year.

Holland who was 8-0 on the year with 17 saves entering the game, was charged with his first loss of the year. It was the first time in 29 games he has pitched in this year that the Cardinals have lost.

Yastrzemski led the Dores with three hits, while Anthony Gomez, Jason Esposito and Curt Casali each added two hits in the winning effort.

Cardinals catcher Jeff Arnold was robbed of a two-run homer in the third inning when center fielder Connor Harrell reached above the fence in left-center and caught the ball to prevent U of L from getting on the board first.

"It was funny," said Harrell "I was going back and I didn't know how far it was from the fence. I actually didn't even know once I caught it that I was at the fence, so I catch it, run into the fence and I see that my glove is over the fence. Going into it, I didn't know that it was an over-the-fence catch. I just thought it was a catch, and then I see my glove's over the fence and I'm hitting the wall, saves two runs."

The Commodores scored the game's first run in the fourth on a RBI single by Curt Casali. Jason Esposito singled with one out, stole second and advanced to third on Joe Loftus' single to right-center. Loftus moved up to second when the Cardinals threw home to stop Esposito from scoring. Andrew Giobbi then grounded to the U of L starting pitcher Thomas Royse who was able to field it and get Esposito out in a rundown between home and third. Casali then hit a bloop single to left to score Loftus to give VU a 1-0 lead.

Vanderbilt had a chance to extend the lead in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs but Royse rallied back and struck out Aaron Westlake, Jason Esposito and Joe Loftus to end the inning.

Royse labored throughout the contest but held the Commodores to one run on eight hits in 5.1 innings with five strikeouts and a walk in the no-decision.

Louisville tied the game in the seventh, scoring a run on a RBI groundout by Stewart Ijames. Ryan Wright singled, stole second and moved to third on Phil Wunderlich's single to left. The Commodores, who started southpaw Grayson Garvin, went to the bullpen and Chase Reid who got Ijames to ground out to Westlake who touched first and fired home as Wright came in from third. The umpire ruled that Wright slid in safely to tie the game at 1-1.

Garvin allowed one run on three hits in a career long 6.1 innings of work. He struck out three and walked two in the no-decision.

"He (Grayson) was very, very effective and throwing a lot of strikes," said Corbin. "Even when he came in, when he hit (Arnold) to start the game, he looked very at ease. I told D.J., once he gets the first out, things will start rolling. He was very, very comfortable. I'm very proud of him. He's come such a long way."

Jason Esposito's two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh put the Commodores up again at 2-1. UL's Tony Zych walked Brian Harris to lead off the inning and Anthony Gomez sac bunted him over to second. Aaron Westlake hit a liner to deep left that Drew Haynes made a diving catch at the wall for the second out. Jason Esposito then singled through the left side to score Brian Harris to make it 2-1.

Vanderbilt went into the bottom of the ninth with Sonny Gray on the mound to try and send the Commodores to the Super Regionals. He walked Stewart Ijames to lead off the inning and then faced Josh Richmond. Ijames attempted to steal second but Richmond was called out by home plate umpire Joe Burleson due to batter's interference.

Gray then struck out Zak Wasserman for the second out of the inning. With the Cards down to their final out, Drew Haynes singled up the middle to put the tying run at second. Jeff Arnold then singled to left-center to score Ijames to tie the game. Andrew Clark then lined out to shortstop Brian Harris to end the inning.

Harris was hit by Cardinal relief ace Neil Holland to lead off the bottom of the ninth and Anthony Gomez bunted him to second base. Aaron Westlake then lined out to short, the Cards walked Esposito and Holland struck out Loftus to end the inning.

Chase Reid pitched an inning of scoreless relief, while Gray allowed one run on four hits in two innings of work with two strikeouts and two walks.