Momentum is a fickle mistress, especially in baseball where there is no clock to be beat.
In pressure situations with 18- to 22-year-old college baseball players, momentum can quickly shift with one big play.
That is only heightened when runs are at a premium during a low-scoring affair with quality arms on the mound. And on college baseball’s biggest stage, the spacious TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series, assures that is the case nearly every game.
“The value of the run out here, whoo, it’s crucial,” Louisville head coach Dan McConnell said after his team lost to Vanderbilt, 5-3, on Saturday night.
“You’re not hitting a two-run jack to tie it. You almost got to get two runners on and bang a ball in the gap.”
With hair-whipping, flyball-killng winds that keep the fans cool with a constant stream of gusts that get up to 40-mph routinely, TDAP plays like a 1920s National League park with 500-foot fences.
Hard hit balls must find the gaps to do damage or else they end up like Grant Kay‘s second inning drive to left field. With a runner on second base, Kay had an opportunity to put Louisville on the board first and take the early momentum.
Instead, he crushed an 0-1 offering from Carson Fulmer toward the bullpen behind the left field fence and gave away the momentum.
That’s because the ball hit the wind and lost some juice. Vanderbilt freshman Bryan Reynolds ran back, turned and jumped at the warning track, making the catch before running into the chain link fencing.
The inning-ending play saved a run and swiped the momentum. Even more impressively, Reynolds made the grab despite having trouble with the sun…and nearly being mixed up by a loose napkin.
“I didn’t see it directly off the bat. It was struck well, so I just started running back,” Bryan Reynolds said. “It came out of the sun and I just went for it.”
But then there was an instant of trepidation for Reynolds when he saw something white out of the corner of his eye after bouncing of the wall.
“I caught it, but I didn’t really feel it go in [my glove] and then I saw a napkin or something on the ground. I didn’t even know if I really caught it. I took a double take.”
“That saved a potential run and we got to come in and do our thing on offense.”
“Our thing on offense” proved to be exactly what Dan McConnell had described. Two walks and a single loaded the bases. After a wild pitch, a gapper by Dansby Swanson put the Commodores up 3-0. From potentially trailing to leading by three runs, Vanderbilt had pulled Uncle Mo into the dugout.
“I think any momentum swing in this tournament is a big deal because the runs, they’re tough to come by,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “We were fortunate tonight in a lot of ways.”
Reynolds later added a two-out RBI triple with another shot in the gap, this time in right-centerfield. Louisville scratched back into the game, trimming the lead down to 4-3, but Vandy junior Adam Ravanelle came in and dominated the final 2.1 innings to slam the door shut and push the Commodores to the winner’s bracket.
Vanderbilt will play UC Irvine at 7 p.m. CST on Monday while Louisville faces Texas in an elimination game at 2 p.m. on Monday.
Be sure to check out these other articles from Vanderbilt’s 5-3 victory: