OMAHA, Neb. — Baseball, she is a fickle mother. And she snapped on Vanderbilt Friday.
One minute, Vanderbilt is rolling its way to the College World Series championship series. The next minute, the Commodores’ anchor pulled them right under the water.
Texas beat Vanderbilt 4-0 at TD Ameritrade Park, the first bump in its road in Omaha. The loss forces a Saturday game to determine which team will advance to the best-of-three championship series.
The Commodores managed only six hits against against Texas starter Nathan Thornhill, who went eight strong innings, but Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin isn’t looking at anything in a negative light, confident his heralded pitching can get the job done.
The finals would begin Monday.
"It doesn’t. We just move forward. It’s just another chance to play another baseball game," Corbin said. "We’re in great shape."
Corbin nearly committed to Carson Fulmer throwing Saturday’s loser-go-home match.
"We’re in good shape, got a lot of arms past him and there’s a lot of kids that are wanting to pitch," he said. "I don’t worry about that. It’s just another nine-inning ballgame."
Tyler Beede, the San Francisco Giants’ first-round pick, threw on Monday, but so did Walker Buehler — who actually threw 90 pitches, 19 more than Bedee, whose struggles brought Buehler from the bullpen. The duo has thrown the most innings for the pitching-heavy squad.
Texas coach Audie Garrido knows that, but he also knows momentum is on his side and he sort of likes that.
About the only thing that went wrong for Texas was the fly that kept buzzing Garrido in his postgame press conference.
"They’re very good. They’re very good pitchers, but this game at the college level in my mind, the bigger the game, the more momentum determines the results," Garrido said. "I must really smell bad. This fly is all over me. Anyway, momentum is really important. We’ve had pitchers come in here with 15 wins and no losses and the guy throws the ball all over the place, because its the championship game. … It’s pitch or go home, but they’re very good."
Texas (46-20) has the momentum and it will likely have to try and keep it going against Fulmer, who got Saturday’s win against Louisville. The sophomore is 7-1 with a 1.88 ERA.
Texas won’t have Thornhill and Parker French pitched on Monday. Only Travis Duke and John Curtiss have come out of the pen in three games.
Vanderbilt went from great shape to, well, a shape it was also in against Stanford in the Super Regional. They wound up with a 12-5 win to get to Omaha.
"I can tell just coming off the field it’s a very similar mindset," said relief pitcher Brian Miller, who threw 7 1/3 innings of relief on Friday for Tyler Ferguson. "We just know that when our backs are against the wall, we’re going to come out really aggressive and strong just like we did against Stanford."
So the rest may have rusted Vanderbilt a bit, but the pitching is more rested than Texas’, whose staff took a hit when dominant Dillon Peters’ elbow took him out of postseason commission and who is still trying to emerge from the loser’s bracket.
The Commodores (48-20) got in trouble early on Friday. Ferguson didn’t get out of the first inning. He hit two batters, walked two more, including Madison Carter with the bases loaded.
Miller came in and left the bases loaded in the first inning and allowed two runs on only four hits the rest of the way. He struck out eight and walked three, but it looked like nothing was going to go Vanderbilt’s way, no matter who was on the mound.
In a first inning nightmare, Texas’ C.J. Hinojosa hit a ball that looked like a double play to second base, Instead, it hit umpire Mark Uyl, scored a run and Hinojosa was safe to load the bases.
"He’s just got to work on his agility a little bit," Corbin said, "so he can move. But I don’t know what would have happened had the ball gone by him. We may have gotten a break, I don’t know, but there’s nothing we can do about that."
There was also a fly to left in the second inning that Bryan Reynolds slipped on and it landed Texas nine-hole hitter Zane Gurwitz a triple. Brooks Marlow followed with an RBI triple that Rhett Wiseman couldn’t come up with on a dive. Then Mark Peyton beat out a safety squeeze, though it appeared Miller tagged him before dropping the baseball.
Reynolds and leadoff Dansby Swanson had been hot and combined to go 1 for 8.
That’s the kind of hot day it was for the ‘Dores. But asked a question about Saturday’s elimination game, Corbin redefined it.
"For us, that would be glass half empty," Corbin said. "This is a game to move on. That’s all it is. And it’s another nine-inning game."
Vanderbilt is looking for its first championship, in its second time in Omaha. Texas has won six of them. Vanderbilt has been hot at the plate this postseason. The Commodores are hitting 29 points higher than in the regular season, .312 in the tournament, the fourth best of the 64 teams that started it. But it’s no secret that what happens on the mound is the determining factor.
"We’ve have to take him out of his game by balancing out patience on the balls outside the strike zone and still be aggressive enough to hit them when they come inside the strike zone," Garrido said. "The best thing to turn around a pitcher’s confidence are about three or four line drives off pitches he thinks are good pitches."
Pitching has propelled Vanderbilt and the Commodores have no reason to think they can’t fill Saturday’s glass full. They have plenty of arms to do it.