FROM GUEST CONTRIBUTOR NewYorkDore of VandySports.com
After a thrilling day one at sold out Hawkins Field, Michigan and Vandy find themselves in the winner’s bracket. Michigan outlasted Memphis in a 10-7 slugfest, behind the bats of Nate Recknagel (2-4, 3 R, 3 RBI) and catcher Doug Pickens (2-5, 3 RBI). On the hill, ace Zach Putnam struggled (9 H, 7 ER), but gave the Wolverines 8 innings, allowing Coach Maloney to only use one inning out of Michael Powers.
In the nightcap, Vandy was stifled for 10 innings by Austin Peay’s Shawn Kelley; however, the first team all-American combo of David Price and Casey Weathers struck out a mind-boggling 22 batters in 11 innings of near perfect work. Ryan Flaherty came around to score on a Shea Robin grounder to the box, granting Coach Corbin and the Dores an exhilarating 2-1 victory before a largely partisan crowd of approximately 3,600.
Both teams’ aces (Putnam and Price) are done pitching for the tournament. Beyond that, each other pitcher should be available for today’s matchup, though Weathers did throw a number of pitches in striking out five of the six batters he faced. Coach Maloney was believed to be ready to turn to seasoned Senior Andrew Hess, who has missed a pair of starts down the stretch due to arm fatigue; however, his arm troubles appear to have continued and the Wolverines will toss Sophomore southpaw Mike Wilson. The West End Word identified Wilson as one of four starting pitchers to watch (with Price, Mikie Minor and Kelley) in the Nashville Regional. Wilson went 7-0 over the year and earned First Team Big Ten honors.
Wilson has excellent numbers and very good stuff, as evidenced by a .223 BAA. The one consolation for Vandy fans is that the lefty-heavy big bats in the Commodore lineup (notably Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty and Ryan Davis) all hit lefties well. With this late change, look for Corbin to insert UCLA-transfer Parker Hanks into the lineup at either Leftfield (for Matt Meingasner) or DH (for Davis).
Toeing the rubber for Vandy will be National Freshman of the Year Candidate Mikie Minor. Minor’s plus-plus changeup presents a potential problem for the righty-heavy Michigan lineup… as one is willing to bet that the Wolverines have not yet seen such sophisticated arm action on a fastball-changeup combo.
Tonight’s loser will play an elimination game against the Memphis-Austin Peay winner on Sunday. The VU-UM winner will earn the right to sit back and then play the team that emerges from the loser’s bracket later on Sunday night and again, if necessary, on Monday.
In the Memphis-APSU game, we’ll see the quintessential batters box vs. pitchers mound affair. The Tigers are a slugging team and they showed that Friday with three home runs off of Putnam.
APSU, meanwhile, used stellar mound work from OVC Pitcher of the Year Kelley. The Govs will roll out their second ace, southpaw Matt Reynolds (10-3, 3.09 ERA, .251 BAA) against Ben “don’t mention that my uncle is John” Grisham (4-3, 5.68, .327). The prevailing question will be whether or APSU’s gloves or the Tiger bats end up on top. Furthermore, both squads played mentally draining games. Memphis‘ longer layoff and APSU’s heart-wrenching loss seem to indicate the guys from out west could have the upper hand.