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June 1, 2007

Vandy survives nail-biter in tourney opener

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin spent the week telling fans and media that the Nashville Regional isn't as easy as many pundits, who pegged it as the NCAA Baseball Tournament's easiest, think.

Corbin won't have to convince an overflow crowd of 3,532 at Hawkins Field that saw Vandy's tourney opener of that. The Commodores needed 11 innings, and a costly error by Austin Peay reliever Ben Wilshire, to knock off the Governors 2-1 on Friday night.

Vandy's Ryan Flaherty scored the winning run from third for the Commodores in the 11th when Wiltshire got his spikes caught in the ground and couldn't field a chopper from Shea Robin on a 2-2 pitch.

Robin slid into first safely as second baseman J.B. Gilbert couldn't collect the ball and throw in time, and the Commodores advanced to the winner's bracket to face Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"I guess, as a coach I've seen so many of those first game regionals played that way, so it wasn't surprising to me," Corbin said.

Behind ace David Price, the Commodores took a 1-0 lead into the ninth against the Governors.

But Price gave up a leadoff home run to Nashville native Tyler Farrar, and when Vandy couldn't get Pedro Alvarez (one out single) home in the ninth, the game went into extra innings.

APSU's Shawn Kelley, the Ohio Valley Conference pitcher of the year, survived an error by Gilbert and a hit-by-pitch against David Macias to get out of the 10th on Alex Feinberg's ground ball to second with two outs.

Kelley gave up just five hits and struck out nine, giving up just one run in the fifth when Brad French scored on a wild pitch. French led off the inning, took second on Macias's sacrifice bunt and third on Feinberg's fly-out to center.

Price, who struck out 17 in a nine-inning no-decision, gave up a walk and then a stolen base to Jake Lane following the home run. Price settled down to strike out Trey Lucas and Jacob Crass before retiring Matt Smith on a ground ball to Alvarez at third.

After Casey Weathers retired the side in order on strikeouts in the 10th, then in order in the 11th on pair of strikeouts and a ground-ball out, Dominic de la Osa led off with a first-pitch single to center off David Vicini.

Alvarez followed by smashing a ball past the bag at first. But first baseman Lane was playing right behind the bag, stepped on first and threw de la Osa out at second for a double play.

Flaherty followed with a single, and Matt Meingasner walked. APSU brought in Wiltshire, its closer, who threw a wild pitch to move runners up a base, setting up Robin's bouncer that produced the game winner.

The Commodores kept that 1-0 lead until the ninth due to flawless play in the field that included a spectacular catch by Dominic de la Osa to snuff out a fourth-inning rally. Lane singled with one out, and Lucas lined a ball the other way to the gap in right-center that looked like it would be a run-scoring double.

But de la Osa sprinted to his right, extended, caught the ball as his glove was about to graze the ground and then threw to first to double off Lane.

"It was pitching and defense tonight," Corbin said. "Dominic's play was huge, that was huge cause they score on that play right there.

"So we played well enough to win this game. You've got to give [Austin Peay] the compliments on the pitching part of it."

Vanderbilt (52-11) will send Mike Minor (9-1) to the mound against Michigan on Saturday.

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