Vanderbilt moved into the winners' bracket at the College World Series after a 7-6 win over Arizona on Saturday evening. Arizona entered the ninth down 6-5, but a leadoff double to the left-center gap by freshman Daniel Susac sparked a rally that ended with a Donta Williams sacrifice fly to tie the game at six. Three innings later, Jayson Gonzalez and Vanderbilt walked it off.
The Wildcats ambushed Commodore starter, Kumar Rocker, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning after the first three Wildcats hitters all reached base. The Commodores responded with one run of their own in the bottom of the inning, and Rocker regained control of his slider and retired 15 straight Arizona batters to stifle the Wildcats offense for the next four plus innings.
"You could feel that they were deflated a little bit, but they hung tough," Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin said of his team after falling behind.
A Jayson Gonzalez two-run home run in the fourth scored Javier Vaz and tied the game at three.
However, a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the sixth quickly came back to bite Rocker after Ryan Holgate demolished a ball deep into right-center, giving Arizona the 5-3 lead.
The back-and-forth affair continued to provide plot twists as a two-run home run from Carter Young capped off a three-run rally in that seventh inning that flipped the scoreboard once again. Vanderbilt held its 6-5 lead until the ninth.
Tying the game in the top of the ninth, Arizona carried the momentum into extra innings, but Vanderbilt was undeterred. After Jayson Gonzalez hit a game-tying home run in the fourth, a ground ball up the middle was all it needed to bring Isaiah Thomas home from third and walk off Arizona.
"It was great," said Gonzalez after the game. "It's a dream come true to be here and be in the situation. We've all worked so hard to get this moment, so it's a pretty special moment."
"They're just good," said Corbin of the Arizona lineup, but on Saturday night, the Vanderbilt lineup was one better.
Vanderbilt will play NC State on Monday in the winners' bracket, while Arizona will play Stanford in the losers' bracket. Arizona is 1-2 against Stanford this year. NC State and Vanderbilt have not played this season.