OMAHA, Neb. — A lucky break can be the difference in the College World Series. That was the case for Texas on Friday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park.
An umpire’s lack of evasive maneuvering turned a potential double play into a big momentum swing for the Longhorns, who took an early lead and never looked back, beating Vanderbilt 4-0 to force a winner-take-all matchup Saturday.
Vanderbilt starter Tyler Ferguson didn’t even make it out of the first inning. He loaded the bases on his first seven pitches — two hit by pitches and a four-pitch walk. But after a strikeout, Ferguson got a potential inning-ending double play ball from C.J. Hinojosa.
As Dansby Swanson went to make a back-handed play, the sinking liner ricochetted off the umpire. Though Swanson did a nice job of recovering and throwing to first, Hinojosa was ruled safe due to Rule 6.2 (f), which states a runner is automatically awarded a base hit and any runners forced move up one base if a ball strikes an umpire before passing any fielders other than the pitcher.
“He’s just got to work on his agility a little bit so he can move,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “But I don’t know what
would have happened had the ball gone by him.”
A walk scored another run and after falling behind 2-0 on Kacy Clemens, Ferguson’s day was over. Brian Miller came on and got out of the jam by striking out Clemens, but Texas was able to tack on two more runs in the next inning when Vandy’s outfielders did him no favors.
Zane Gurwitz tripled when left fielder Bryan Reynolds slipped trying to go back on a ball. Brooks Marlow then tripled to right field when Rhett Wiseman made an ill-advised diving attempt on a sinking liner.
Marlow scored on a squeeze drag bunt by Mark Payton and the game was never in doubt after that. Miller pitched a career-high 7.1 innings, allowing four hits and the two runs in the second inning. He also struck out a career-high eight batters, but it was all in a losing effort because the guy toeing the rubber from Texas was lights out all afternoon.
Nathan Thornhill struck out five and allowed six hits in eight scoreless innings. The Longhorns veteran ace was just that. He was a bulldog, throwing 131 pitches, which Thornhill believed was the most he’s ever thrown at Texas.
Thornhill allowed two hits to John Norwood and Tyler Campbell, the suspended Xavier Turner‘s replacement at third base, but Thornhill didn’t allow a runner past second base and only once allowed two runners on base at the same time.
Zane Gurwitz finished with two hits and a run for Texas while Brooks Marlow reached four times, going 1-for-1 with an RBI triple, two walks, two runs a hit by pitch.
The two teams will play again on Saturday to determine who advances to the championship round. The game time is to be determined based on the outcome of the Ole Miss/Virginia game Friday night. If Ole Miss forces a winner-take-all finale in Bracket Two, Texas/Vandy will play at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Otherwise, the two teams will play at 7 p.m.
Here’s CBD photographer Shotgun Spratling‘s top shots from the 2014 College World Series Thursday night matchup at TD Ameritrade Park: