JOE BIDDLE: Vandy baseball team on life support - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Vandy baseball team on life support

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Louisville's football team handily beat Florida in the BCS Sugar Bowl.

The Cardinals basketball won the men's basketball national championship under Rick Pitino.

Their women's team finished runner-up to national champion UConn in their NCAA Tournament.

Now Louisville's baseball team is one win away from playing in the College World Series.

You have to admit. There's something in these Cards.

Their baseball team gave Vanderbilt a taste of its own medicine on how to play small ball in Game One of the best two-of-three series Saturday at the Hawk.

They prevailed 5-3 and have to be confident going into Sunday's game, as 77 percent of college baseball teams that win the first game of a best two of three series, goes on to win the series.

Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin doesn't necessarily believe in percentages.

"We still have 18 innings to play, still a lot of tournament left,'' he said.

"To me, it's a three-round fight and they won the first round, but they didn't knock us out.''

After taking a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning, Vanderbilt's bats were muted for the next four innings. When the Cards' Matt Helm stroked a 2-out, 2-strike pitch to left field, it plated two teammates in the top of the seventh inning. They had scored a run prior to that and the 4-2 lead seemed insurmountable with Louisville's bullpen throwing darts.
 
Vanderbilt scratched out a run in its half of the eighth after UL went ahead 5-2 to make it 5-3. But two of the first three Commodores made outs in the bottom of the ninth. They loaded the bases for Conrad Gregor, but his soft grounder to second was fielded, flipped to the shortstop and the Cards' celebration began as they toppled the No. 2 seed in the Super Regionals.

Vanderbilt's game plan now becomes simple math. They have to find a way to win two in a row against a team that is eerily similar to them in virtually every phase of the game.

If they can't find a way to make what would arguably be the biggest comeback in Vanderbilt's checkered baseball history, it will be known as a major disappointment in Coach Tim Corbin's tenure.

A team known for its consistent hitting throughout the season met its match Saturday.

Vanderbilt went down in order in the fourth inning. Connor Harrell was the only runner to reach base in the fifth and that was courtesy of being hit by a pitch. Vanderbilt batters went down in order in the sixth and seventh innings.

They could not summon their season-long formula for manufacturing runs. It places them on life support for today's 3 p.m. game at Hawkins Stadium.

Can Corbin push the right buttons to bring his team back from the grave? It is the most difficult position he has faced in his 11 years on West End.

Lest we forget, Vanderbilt was pushed to a win or close shop game against Georgia Tech in the NCAA Regional at the Hawk. But each team had a loss in the four-team, double elimination format.

They will be required to beat 8-seed Louisville, a more competent team than Georgia Tech. Not only must they beat Louisville Sunday but, if successful, return the next day and find a way to win.

As expected, Vanderbilt players are confident.

Senior right fielder Mike Yastrzemski wasn't about to throw in the towel.

"I think sometimes when we lose a close game, we snap back to where we were,'' said the grandson of Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.

Is it in the cards for Vanderbilt to get to Omaha? Or will the Cards be the end of the road for this year's Commodores?

They can make history, even if the odds are against them. It's up to them to make it happen.

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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