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WhenItStrikesMe.com Quick Hits from Nashville Regional

By: WhenItStrikesMe.com
On a steamy night at Hawkins Field, Vanderbilt All-American Grayson Garvin extended his tremendous junior year and, in doing so, both set a school record with his thirteenth win and pushed Vanderbilt to the brink of Nashville’s first Super Regional. Standing in the way was the very talented Troy Trojan squad and sophomore southpaw Jimmy Hodgskin.

The book on Hodgskin coming in stated that he was a hard throwing lefty who sometimes had trouble finding the zone. That proved true early as Vanderbilt remained patient, forcing the lefty to through 60 pitches (31 for strikes) through four innings, despite scratching only a pair of hits. Though he often missed low and in the dirt while walking three and hitting two batters, Hodgskin suffered in part from a consistently tight zone from home plate umpire Heath Jones. Garvin and Vanderbilt catcher Curt Casali also spent the entire evening trying to identify the outer boundary of Jones’ strike zone, with several painted pitches called outside. Despite this, Garvin managed to keep a low pitch count and keep Troy from getting the big inning.

Though Garvin was sharp, Troy did touch up the lefty for a pair of runs to claim a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, courtesy of a two out Todd McRae single. As the visiting squad, Vanderbilt bounced right back with a three spot in the top half of the fifth inning on a Tony Kemp single up the middle and an Anthony Gomez sac fly. As Kemp crossed home plate, he pumped his fist, re-energizing the home crowd after the very strong and vocal Troy contingent had loudly claimed the prior half inning. Vanderbilt’s runs in the inning had come with ace reliever Nathan Hill on the mound. Hill had replaced Hodgskin after the starter put the first two batters of the frame by hit by pitch and walk.

Hill kept Vanderbilt in check for the next with the help of some solid defense, including a spectacular play by Trojan center fielder Dan Peterson, who robbed Aaron Westlake of a home run to the right of the 405 sign in center field. Several times Westlake tested the humid air and deep fences at the Hawk with little effect. Three innings prior, Connor Harrell did the same with Trojan left fielder Boone Shear making a fine play to chase down a ball that would likely have left the Hawk on a more clear and crisp night.

With the lead returned, Grayson Garvin went into his typical cruise control, carving up the strike zone while striking out seven in 6.2 innings. Troy was able to manage seven hits and a walk, but the two fourth inning runs would be the extent of the damage. Garvin was replaced by Will Clinard in the seventh and, other than issuing a single walk, Clinard dominated the Trojan lineup with the combination of a sweeping slider and hard breaking cut fastball. He retired seven of the eight men he faced to earn his third save of the year.

Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt offense welcomed Clinard with an immediate barrage of run support, making his save and the final margin somewhat deceptively easy. In the eighth, the Commodores scored two insurance runs on a Conrad Gregor single after a two-out Mike Yastrzemski triple and a Jason Esposito walk. In the ninth, the flood gates opened as Westlake finally tested the wall successfully. Despite the humidity, the big first baseman powered a shot just short of the crosswalk beyond the center field wall for a three run home run. Casali followed immediately after with a majestic blast half way up the bleachers in left center field to settle the eight run margin of victory.

In the postgame, coach Tim Corbin spoke very highly of Troy coach Bobby Pierce’s Trojan squad. To say that the left side combination of Tyler Hannah at third and Adam Bryant is All-SEC caliber would be an understatement. The duo made all the plays on Saturday and have an impressive calm about themselves at the plate. Similarly, you saw a solid core of pitching talent in Hodgskin and Hill. Nevertheless, there is a strong determination in the Commodore lineup and a killer instinct in the pitching staff.

Coach Pierce complimented the Dores pitching in particular, saying that “[i]n the critical moments of the game, they made some quality pitches. When they really had to make a pitch, they made them. You just have to tip your cap. That’s exactly what all good baseball teams are trying to do.”

Additionally, the lineup continued their season long tradition of coming up big with two out rallies and scoring immediately after the defense permitted runs. The late outburst also got Vanderbilt double digits in runs scored for the 17th time in their last 34 games. Vanderbilt has a rested pen with only Friday starter Sonny Gray, Garvin and Clinard unavailable for work in Sunday’s evening game.

In the early game which has been delayed by rain, Troy will send Ryan Sorce (5-4, 5.23 ERA in 62 IP) to the hill against Belmont’s Nate Woods (6-5, 6.44 ERA in 57.1 IP). Due to lightning strikes in Nashville the game was delayed to a 4:05 PM start in Nashville. The winner will advance to face Vanderbilt’s Taylor Hill (4-1, 3.00 ERA in 84.0 IP) in a championship game scheduled to start 45 minutes after the conclusion of the under card.