Baseball player headshots.  (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt wins Game 1 over UNC 7-3

The Vanderbilt Commodores and the North Carolina Tar Heels opened up the TD Ameritrade Park in the first game of the 2011 College World Series. The big star of the game was the first pitch by former president George Walker Bush. Once the teams get settled from the former president’s appearance, Vanderbilt picked up the 7-3 victory over North Carolina.

Both starting pitchers struggled with their control in the game as Sonny Gray lasted only 4.2 innings while Patrick Johnson left after six.

The Commodores jumped on the Tar Heels early as UNC starting pitcher Patrick Johnson opened the game up by making a poor throw to first on a Tony Kemp bunt. He ended up scoring the first run of the CWS on an Aaron Westlake sacrifice fly to center.

The Tar Heels didn’t waste anytime though in tying up the game. Leadoff hitter Chaz Frank hit a triple into the right-center field gap to start the inning. After a Levi Michael infield groundout failed to advance him, Frank would score on an infield single by Colin Moran which deflected off Vanderbilt first baseman’s Aaron Westlake’s glove.

After a scoreless top of the second, UNC took their first lead of the game on a Seth Baldwin bloop single to left that scored Ben Bunting from second base. The lead wouldn’t last long as Curt Casali hit a bases loaded sacrifice fly to tie up the ball game at 2 in the top of the third.

North Carolina loaded up the bases in the bottom of the fourth with one out. Seth Baldwin hit a ball into shallow left field for ¬†what looked like a probably hit by left fielder Tony Kemp made a diving catch for the second out of the inning. The Commodores wouldn’t escape damage though as Chaz Frank got hit by a pitch to give the Tar Heels the 3-2 lead.

Vanderbilt exploded in the sixth inning by scoring three runs with the big hit being a two run homer by Connor Harrell to give them the 5-3 lead. The homer was the eighth of the year for him and will be the answer to the trivia question who hit the first homer at TD Ameritrade Park. Harrell stated¬†“He (Patrick Johnson) was sort of living off the plate, throwing breaking balls. Breaking ball was pretty good, but he was able to leave it up for a second and I got under it, extended, and got it in the jet stream.”

The Commodores tacked on two runs in the eighth with RBI singles from Tony Kemp and Anthony Gomez. Vandy survived a ninth inning rally with runners on the corners but Kevin Ziomek was able to force Chaz Frank to ground out.

Vanderbilt will face off against the winner of Florida and Texas on Monday evening at 7pm eastern.