Vanderbilt scores early, often to defeat Georgia Tech for spot in super regionals
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Philip Pfeifer threw five scoreless innings and Xavier Turner drove in three runs to lead No. 2 overall seed Vanderbilt to a 7-1 victory against Georgia Tech in an NCAA regional championship game on Monday.
Pfeifer won more games than any high school pitcher in the state of Tennessee.
Now he can add a pivotal win in college to his resume.
The Commodores (54-10) tied the program record for single-season wins claiming their fourth regional championship and third in four years. They advanced to host Louisville in a super regional.
Coach Tim Corbin notified Pfeifer (4-0) earlier Monday morning he would start the winner-take-all game after Vanderbilt lost to the Yellow Jackets 5-0 on Sunday.
''It was my turn to defend the program,'' Pfeifer said. ''You've got people who stuck around and came back for this moment. Just being able to be a part of making it worth it for them is a huge deal to me.''
Pfeifer, who won 46 games in high school and four state championships, struck out just two but wiggled out of numerous jams.
He benefited from double plays in the opening two frames, stranded a pair of runners the next couple innings and retired the side in order in the fifth. He handed the ball over to closer Brian Miller, who allowed just one run on no hits in the final four innings.
''He kept us off-balance and was consistently pounding the inside corner to the righties,'' Georgia Tech designated hitter Zane Evans said about Pfeifer. ''That gave us some trouble with his velocity and his delivery. It was kind of sneaky, getting on you pretty fast.''
Vanderbilt made sure to provide run support early, scoring in three of the first five frames.
Buck Farmer (9-5) was tagged with the loss despite allowing just two runs on five hits in four innings. He was pitching on one day's rest after throwing just 58 pitches in six scoreless innings on Saturday against East Tennessee State.
It was far from smooth sailing against Vanderbilt, which forced 26 pitches from Farmer in the first.
''For any team to get the starting pitcher's count up in the first inning is huge,'' Farmer said. ''Striking first in baseball is key.''
But Georgia Tech (37-27), which won three consecutive elimination games after dropping the NCAA tournament opener, minimized the damage for most of the game and cut the deficit to 4-1 in the seventh.
The Commodores broke through with three runs in the bottom half of the inning. After Conrad Gregor led off with a single -- one of 12 for Vanderbilt -- a series of bunts wreaked havoc for the Yellow Jackets.
Reliever Joe Wiseman fielded Rhett Wiseman's bunt cleanly but sailed the throw into right field, allowing Gregor to score. Vince Conde and Jack Lupo followed with bunts to knock in Wiseman. Xavier Turner capped off the scoring with a single up the middle for his third RBI of the game.
Right fielder Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, was named the tournament MVP after ripping five hits, driving in three runs and scoring five in four games.
''We put pressure on them most of the night,'' Corbin said. ''We won a lot of frames. I'm proud of the kids. They responded like I thought they would. They're a tough group. I said that last night and I'll always stand behind that with this group.''