Pitching is what got Vanderbilt to the Corvallis Region final on Monday in Oregon. But pitching is what ultimately sent the Commodores home short of the Super Regional round for the first time since 2016.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin turned the ball over to Christian Little in Monday’s winner-take-all game, even though Little threw 33 pitches over three innings of relief in Friday’s 3-2 loss to San Diego.
Little allowed one run in three innings, but Oregon State ran his pitch count up to 70, chasing him in the fourth inning in favor of Patrick Reilly. The sophomore righty was roughed up, surrendering five earned runs on six hits over 1.2 innings. And his replacement, Grayson Moore, gave up another run in his 1.2 innings of work.
"I don't think any of us thought we were going to lose," infielder Dominic Keegan said, via The Tennessean. "… If we were going to go down, we were going to go down swinging, and we swung."
Spencer Jones homered in the top of the fourth inning to give VU its first lead before Oregon State broke it open in the fifth. Jacob Melton homered to left center to give the Beavers a 4-3 lead before Kyle Dernedde belted a two-RBI single to centerfield for the 6-3 advantage.
Vanderbilt made it interesting in the sixth and seventh innings thanks to an Oregon State error, an Enrique Bradfield Jr. RBI single and a Calvin Hewett sac fly. But a Matthew Gretler homer in the bottom of the seventh proved to be enough after Beavers’ ace Cooper Hjerpe threw two shutout innings to seal the 7-6 win.
"I feel like we certainly gave them a run," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said, via The Tennessean. "Really, really proud of the kids. I mean, those words get tossed around a little bit. But I think in the situation that we were in on the first day and then how we responded to it was a reflection of [Dominic Keegan and Tate Kolwyck].”
Despite showing glimpses of potential throughout the year and into the postseason, the ‘Dores end the year with a 39-23 record — the school’s most losses since the 2017-18 season (27).
Vanderbilt will likely lose Keegan (.376 average, 14 home runs, 67 RBIs) and Jones (.369 average, 11 home runs, 58 RBIs) to the MLB Draft, but plenty of underclassmen took solid steps forward in their development this year, including sophomores Hewitt and Jack Bulger, plus juniors Carter Young and Parker Noland.
Although freshmen hurlers Carter Holton (8-4, 3.14 ERA, 97 Ks) and Devin Futrell (9-3, 3.41 ERA, 64 Ks) went through their growing pains this year, both should return next season as frontline starters. Little, who appeared in 17 games, and starting two, was used primarily as a reliever this year. He, too, could be a mainstay in the rotation next year as well.
Vanderbilt will also welcome the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country next season, headlined by right-handed pitcher Dylan Lesko and outfielder Andruw Jones, both Georgia prep stars.
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