It wasn’t dominant, like Friday’s victory against Presbyterian. It wasn’t particularly dramatic, like Georgia Tech’s Friday win against Indiana State. But in the end, the Commodores came out with a win against the Yellow Jackets, 4-3 on Saturday in the Nashville Regional.
Jack Leiter was able to keep Georgia Tech’s potent offense largely in check and Vanderbilt, while showing some struggles on offense, took advantage of every Yellow Jackets mistake. Saturday, it was the Commodores (42-15) who found a way to win and earned their way straight to the regional final Sunday (8 p.m.).
Solid start for Leiter
Against a potent offensive team in Georgia Tech (30-24), Leiter put up a solid start, going six innings and allowing one run on three hits and two walks and struck out 11. His one trouble spot came in the fourth inning, when he allowed a leadoff home run to Kevin Parada, but he minimized damage after that. He threw strikes and showed the stuff that has made him a projected top-10 MLB draft pick.
Leiter’s defense was a mixed bag. He made a highlight play in the third, barehanding a ball after a line drive knocked his glove off and throwing to first in time. Then, in the sixth, he made a throwing error on a soft liner hit in front of him, allowing the runner to advance to third. Still, he prevented any damage by striking out the next batter to end the inning.
Eleven strikeouts was tied for Leiter’s third-most in a single game this year.
Offense takes advantage of mistakes
Vanderbilt didn’t have its best day on offense, only managing x hits. But the Commodores managed to take advantage of the Yellow Jackets’ mistakes. In the bottom of the third, Dominic Keegan reached on a throwing error by the third baseman, then Troy LaNeve got hit by a pitch, CJ Rodriguez doubled Keegan home and LaNeve scored on a wild pitch.
Then in the fifth, with two runners on and one out, Javier Vaz reached on what could have been a double play, but the throw from the shortstop sailed into right field and two runners scored. The four runs, all unearned, provided the Commodores’ offense for the game.
Although Vanderbilt wasn’t at its best at the plate, it displayed one of the qualities that makes it a top-five team in the country: the ability to find ways to win, even without its best.
Mixed bag for Maldonado
Nick Maldonado took over for Leiter in the seventh. He looked downright nasty to start with a 1-2-3 inning, including two strikeouts, throwing just 11 pitches.
He also had a decently drama-free eighth, working around a walk. In the ninth was when things got a little dicey, as Maldonado hit a batter then allowed a home run to Drew Compton to narrow the deficit to one. However, Maldonado was able to shut down the game with a strikeout and earning the save.
Vanderbilt advances straight to the regional final Sunday, where it will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Georgia Tech and Indiana State. The Commodores will have the advantage, needing to only win one game to advance to super regionals while the other team would have to beat Vanderbilt twice.
Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @aria_gerson.