NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s record-setting season came to an end Sunday, and not in the way the Commodores had hoped.
Jeff Thompson surrendered one run in seven strong innings to make two early runs stand up in Louisville’s 2-1 victory over the No. 2 overall seed in the second game of their super regional Sunday, sending the Cardinals to the College World Series for the second time.
The Big East Conference pitcher of the year struck out nine, allowed three hits and threw 124 pitches. Zak Wasserman and Sutton Whiting drove in runs in the second inning for the Cardinals (51-12)
Vanderbilt (54-12) — which won the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and stood at No. 1 in most college baseball polls for much of this season — had the tying run on third base with two outs in the ninth inning. But left-hander Cody Ege earned his first career save by striking out Mike Yastrzemski for the final out. Louisville, which set a program record for single-season wins, has yet to lose this postseason and will make its first trip to the CWS since 2007.
The Commodores lost to the same team twice for the first time all season.
Vanderbilt freshman Zander Wiel homered in the sixth inning to account for the Commodores’ only extra-base hit of the series. Vandy stranded 11 runners for the second straight game.
In the ninth, Louisville closer Nick Burdi gave up a one-hit single to pinch hitter John Norwood. The Cardinals then turned to Ege, who hadn’t allowed a run in 14 straight innings.
After giving up a single to Xavier Turner, he fanned Yastrzemski on a 2-2 count. Gibson spiked the ball, and a dogpile ensued on the pitcher’s mound.
Vanderbilt starter Tyler Beede (14-1), the nation’s leader in wins, lasted 2.2 innings in his shortest outing of the season. The right-hander allowed five hits, walked three and exited the third inning with the bases loaded. Freshman Carson Fulmer took over and induced Gibson into an inning-ending groundout on the first pitch.
Fulmer stayed in the rest of the game, allowing two hits in 5.1 scoreless innings.
Louisville jumped in front with two runs in the second. Wasserman drove in Jeff Gardner with a single through the right side as Kyle Gibson stopped to let the baseball pass through. Gibson later scored on Whiting’s single past the second base bag. Wasserman was thrown out at third to end the inning. The Cardinals stranded nine runners.
Vanderbilt squandered two potential rallies. In the second inning, the Commodores loaded the bases with one out — but Spencer Navin looked at strike three and Jack Lupo popped up to second on the first pitch.
Thompson settled in to retire 10 of the next 11 batters. With two outs in the fifth, Tony Kemp singled to left field and Turner drew a walk. But Thompson got out of the jam by getting Yastrzemski to swing at ball four, a 93 mph pitch that was up and in.
With two outs in the sixth, Wiel hit his fifth home run of the season. The designated hitter cranked a 1-1 pitch from Thompson over the 35-foot wall and just inside the left-field foul pole. Third-base umpire Jeff Heinrichs pointed to fair territory, finally giving Commodore fans a reason to cheer.
Joe Filomeno took over in the eighth but hit a batter and walked a batter to put runners on first and second with two outs. After his first pitch to Vince Conde, Filomeno left the game with an apparent injury to his left (throwing) arm. Kyle Funkhouser replaced him and Conde smacked a hard shot to third. But Ty Young slid to his left, scooped up the ball and popped up quickly to throw out Conde.
That set up an eventful ninth.