NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It didn't take long to realize that Stanford was in trouble.
Stanford pitcher John Hochstatter, making the start while ace Cal Quantrill received another day of rest after pitching twice in three days last weekend, walked three of the first four hitters he faced to load the bases with one out. It looked like he may get out of it when he got Xavier Turner to hit into a fielder's choice, with Hochstatter throwing out Dansby Swanson at home. However, as would be easy to see, Friday wasn't Hochstatter's day.
After getting Turner, Hochstatter walked Rhett Wiseman to bring in Vandy's first run, then Hochstatter compounded his problems with a wild pitch that brought in Zander Wiel. With those runs, the story of the day was born in Vanderbilt's 11-6 victory in Game 1 of the Nashville Super Regional at Hawkins Field.For the first few innings, Stanford worked itself into trouble and Vanderbilt would make the Cardinal pay. Whether it was from Hochstetter in the first or Chris Vaill in the second and third, the Commodores found themselves with free baserunners. All told, the Commodores would plate 10 runners in the first three innings thanks in part to seven free passes. By the time things started to go Stanford's way, Vandy had a big enough cushion.
"We capitalized early and jetted out to a big lead -- what seemed like a big lead at the time," Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. "As we know, those leads are sometimes tough to maintain when they come so early from a mental standpoint."
Stanford would come back and cut Vanderbilt's lead down to 10-6, but for the first few innings, the Commodores were in cruise control. Not only had pitcher Tyler Beede only given up only two baserunners in the first three innings but Stanford's pitching looked lost.
Hochstatter walked five batters before being removed after allowing a leadoff walk in the second. Viall struggled to help the cause, walking two more in 1.1 innings.
"Obviously, you can't give a quality team like Vanderbilt as many free baserunners as we did but credit to them, they got a couple of base hits with runners on that broke it open," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. "Hochstetter has pitched phenomenal, we wouldn't be here without him. It was probably his poorest outing -- he was out of sync and didn't have command of any of his pitches which is unlike him."
With Stanford's pitching struggling, Vanderbilt hitters were able to sit back and wait for their pitch. John Norwood brought in two runs in the first inning with a single, and Bryan Reynolds and Wiel each drove home runners with singles in the third.
"We were just able to check off the high ball and make them come into the zone," Reynolds said.
Vanderbilt's party nearly came crashing down in the fourth and fifth as Brett Hanewich stabilized the Cardinal with a strong showing on the mound, while his counterpart Beede was losing command. Beede, who less than 24 hours earlier had been a first-round pick by the San Francisco Giants, allowed a two-run triple to Wayne Taylor in the fourth and was forced out of the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth with the Commodores hanging on to a 10-6 lead.
While Tyler Ferguson and Brian Miller came out of the Vanderbilt pen to silence the Cardinal for the final 5.1 innings, Stanford's rally was enough to give the Cardinal hope heading into Saturday's elimination game.
"We're definitely not going to quit, we've come too far and we've played too well to get here," Stanford first baseman Danny Diekroeger said. "For the past six, seven weeks it feels like we've had our season on the line in so many games so it's nothing new for us."
It was those early runs that put Vanderbilt on the verge of its second College World Series appearance. However, Vanderbilt is not expecting another early gift like the one it got Friday.
"[Saturday] is a different day, a different set of circumstances," Corbin said.