Commodores win first game of Ole Miss doubleheader in exciting, walk-off fashion

The Commodore Baseball Team beats the University of Georgia on Saturday, April 7, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

In a wild and wacky short game, the 15th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores defeated the fifth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels 8-7 thanks to an unbelievable walk-off wild pitch in the extra eigth inning.

The Commodores sent Patrick Raby to the mound to take on the Rebels. With a strong overcast throughout this matchup, fans were just hoping they would get to see both games before the rain came down.

The Commodores took the field with two straight opportunities to redeem themselves, after losing to Ole Miss on Friday, 11-3.

The first inning may not have started the way Coach Corbin and the Commodores had hoped, as Patrick Raby opened with back-to-back full count walks. The Rebels were able to run up his pitch count, but after a quick (and early) mound visit from Corbin, Raby recollected. A quick fly out to center and a fantastic job by Raby himself covering first on the proceeding double play ended the first inning without any damage.

Raby seamlessly settled into a groove with a one-two-three inning in the second. That said, the Commodores couldn’t make any noise behind the plate, giving Raby very little room to work with.

Through just two innings, Vanderbilt’s Patrick Raby and Ole Miss’ Brady Feigl had quickly declared this game a pitching duel.

Players, fans, and spectators began to wonder one thing: which pitcher would make the first mistake?

In the bottom of the third inning, the Commodores finally showed up, but not for long. After Julian Infante broke up the mutual no-hitter with a double to deep left, Vanderbilt showed little plate discipline. Davis and Martin made it a lot easier for the Rebels, who had little to worry about after the two grounded out on the first pitch they saw.

It took nearly four frames for either team to break this game open. Luckily, after Paul was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a groundout, Philip Clarke lined a double down the first base line to score a run.

The key to Clarke driving in a run? Precisely what the Commodores lacked the inning before: Baseball IQ.

Not only did Clarke have the plate discipline to wait for his pitch (the RBI double came on the fifth pitch of the at-bat), but he continued to flaunt his intelligence on the bases. He reached third base on a Demarco ground out, but then a bizarre series of events took place: Connor Kaiser appeared to have grounded out to end the inning, but a second or two after the throw reached first base, the umpire called Kaiser safe. From his angle, the first baseman’s foot came off the bag, and of course, Clarke never stopped running. In fact, he didn’t even pick his head up. By the time Ole Miss realized, they sprinted back to the field (many had began walking towards the dugout after the throw to first), but Clarke had already scored the Commodores second run.

In the top of the fifth, Raby let up his first two hits of the game–a single then a double–allowing Ole Miss to tack on their first run. Once again, Raby showed his maturity, as he remained unfazed. He proceeded to strike out a batter and force the second to groundout, getting out of the inning with very little damage.

Coach Corbin decided that the one run was not enough to warrant pulling Raby from the game, so he continued to ride his workhorse into the sixth.

The result? Raby may have retired the side in just four batters, but of course, the second of those four knocked a solo home run to left center.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Vanderbilt sought to take the lead once again and make amends for Ole Miss’ game-tying home run.

The Commodores quickly loaded runners to first and second with one out, forcing Ole Miss to pull their starting pitcher, Brady Feigl.

The reliever, Parker Caracci, struck out the first batter before quickly finding himself in trouble.

The two words that will haunt Ole Miss in the coming days: Philip Clarke.

With two outs and runners on first and second, Clarke only needed to see three pitches this time around. He knocked a double into deep left field, driving in two more runs and starting a rally. The next batter, Connor Kaiser, drove in Clarke with a base hit up the middle.

Heading into the seventh, Corbin called in Zach King to relieve Patrick Raby, who let up three hits and two runs in six innings pitched. At this point, the Commodores held a 5-2 lead, their largest lead of the day.

Safe to say, King did not have the performance Corbin had expected. He quickly left the game, forcing freshman Tyler Brown to dig himself out of a bases loaded, no-out mess.

The result?

Brown beamed the first batter he faced, forcing in a run. The next batter bounced one to Julian Infante at first, who decided to go for the safer force-out at first, allowing yet another run to score. At this point, Vanderbilt led by just one, with Ole Miss runners on first and second and only one out. Vanderbilt fans expressed their concern with the decision; Infante appeared to have enough time to get the runner at home, but still decided to go for just one at first.

All it took was a deep sac fly and an infield hit for Ole Miss to score two more, taking the lead 6-5.

After Infante made a questionable call at first, Kaiser did just the same: with a slow roller to the the third base area, he didn’t communicate well with third baseman Harrison Ray. As the ball rolled closer, their lack of communication forced Kaiser to call of Ray, while Ray seemed to have the closer, faster angle to the ball. Additionally, Kaiser was forced to throw a somewhat off-balance beam to first, which the runner was able to beat out. Ultimately, the miscommunication allowed Ole Miss to take the lead in the top of the seventh.

In accordance with NCAA regulations, today’s game was only seven innings long, as the Commodores were set to play again just 45 minutes after the first game ended.

In the bottom of the seventh, Scott was hit by a pitch and was able to swipe second due to a mishap from the player handling the catcher’s throw. Julian Infante then struck out, bringing pinch hitter Ty Duvall to the plate. Duvall’s sac fly to deep right field brought Martin to the plate, needing a hit to score the game-tying run.

The Commodores caught a lucky break.

Martin hit a weak ground ball to second, and while he may have had the speed to beat out the throw, Ole Miss’ second baseman made an inexcusable mistake. He charged toward the ground ball with his glove a little too high.

The ball went straight past his glove, allowing the game-tying run to score.

Vanderbilt extended this game to the 8th inning (technically an extra-inning due to the doubleheader) tied at 6, only for Brown to quickly give up a double. Jackson Gillis quickly entered the game in relief with a runner on second and no outs.

Ultimately, the Rebels regained the lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning.

Key word: regained. This game was far from over.

Vanderbilt led off the inning with an incredibly clutch solo home run from Ethan Paul, followed by a Pat Demarco base hit. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Vanderbilt had a runner on first with no outs. All they needed was to score once more to win the game.

Ole Miss fans held their breath as their worst nightmare came to the plate once more.

This time, the Rebels handled Philip Clarke, who simply grounded out to move the game winning run to second base. A Connor Kaiser bloop single and an intentional walk on Stephen Scott loaded the bases.

With Ty Duvall at the plate, Vanderbilt caught yet another lucky break. A wild pitch by Ole Miss drove a run home, allowing the Commodores to win the first of the doubleheader, 8-7.

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Simon Gibbs (‘21) writes for the sports section of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He is planning on majoring in Human and Organizational Development in Peabody College, with minors in Business and Communication Studies. Simon had written pieces for the sports section of his high school newspaper, the Riverdale Review, before arriving at Vanderbilt. When he's not writing articles or covering games, you can find Simon watching his hometown New York Mets, waiting for that next ring.

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