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Walk-off magic sends baseball to rubber game against Vanderbilt

In order for the Cardinal to have clinched their berth in the Super Regional against Vanderbilt, they needed lightning to strike twice in their two elimination games against Indiana — and clutch home runs by Wayne Taylor and Tommy Edman provided just that spark.

On Saturday, facing elimination again, this time against Vanderbilt, lightning improbably struck for a third time.

(DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

For the second time in four games, junior catcher Wayne Taylor (above) found himself the hero as his ninth-inning, walk-off home run gave Stanford a hard-earned win and forced a deciding game three against Vanderbilt with a berth in the College World Series on the line. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

This time, it was again Taylor that kept Stanford’s season alive when the junior catcher turned on a fastball from Commodore reliever Adam Ravenelle and deposited it over the right-field fence to propel the Cardinal to yet another walk-off win — this time, by a score of 5-4 in Nashville. In doing so, he ensured that Stanford would live to see another day and set up a dramatic game three matchup for Sunday in which the winner will move on to the College World Series in Omaha.

“I remember we saw [Ravenelle] when we played Vanderbilt the first time this year — when we came here during the season,” Taylor said. “He was a guy that throws a really hard fastball and a good slider, so I was just trying to get a good fastball to hit. I knew that with his velocity, I was going to have to get the head of the bat out…I was able to put a good swing on it and get ahold of it.”

It was the first time in Ravenelle’s three-year career in which he had given up a home run.

The walk-off blast was part of a 2-for-4 day for Taylor, who struggled early against Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer but rebounded towards the end of the game to have a two-RBI afternoon. Fulmer entered the game with a 1.42 ERA but allowed four earned runs in 6.1 innings of work against the Cardinal.

Despite all of the confidence and morale boost that a walk-off win provides for a team, however, Taylor arguably shouldn’t have been in a position in which heroics were needed after Stanford jumped out to a 4-1 lead heading into the eighth inning. It was an uncharacteristically bad outing from senior reliever A.J. Vanegas that allowed the Commodores to tie the game late and send it to the bottom of the ninth.

“It was tough. But that happens,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “We gave them a lot of bases on balls and the hit-by-pitch; we were real fortunate to come back and have three runs to play with.”

Control issues from Vanegas led to a run being driven home by Vanderbilt on a fielder’s choice in the eighth on a blown call by the first-base umpire that should have given Stanford an extra out. However, Vanegas’ accuracy continued to fail him after that and he walked in another run to cut Stanford’s lead to 4-3. In the ninth, he then allowed the tying run to score on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.

Those struggles highlighted the importance of the two insurance runs that Stanford tacked on in the bottom of the seventh against Fulmer off of RBI singles from Taylor and senior second baseman Brett Michael Doran. Although the Vanderbilt righty had his overpowering fastball and nasty breaking pitch working well all afternoon, Stanford hitters starting anticipating those pitches and seeing them better on their third and fourth trips to the plate, making the rally possible.

“If it’s 2-1, we’re not going to win that game, the way it was going,” Marquess said. “We were fortunate.”

The late Vanderbilt surge squandered another fantastic outing from freshman righty Cal Quantrill, who exited after seven-plus innings pitched in which he only gave up one unearned run before Vanegas allowed both of his inherited runners to score.

Quantrill, whose trademark changeup kept the Vanderbilt hitters firmly off-balance all afternoon, continued to show no signs of inexperience despite being a freshman pitching in his first NCAA Tournament. He also unleashed another strong outing despite having a physics final looming after his start — win or lose.

Although Vanderbilt jumped out ahead early against Quantrill with a run in the second, Quantrill buckled down after that and dominated the Commodores’ hitters for the rest of his outing. Senior catcher Brant Whiting gave Quantrill an early lead in the fourth with his two-out, two-run double into right-center.

“I try not to put too much pressure on myself,” Quantrill said. “Just do what we’ve been doing the whole time. We knew we were going to be in for a good contest.”

The Cardinal will find themselves in an all-too-familiar situation again tomorrow: win or go home. Given that Stanford is 4-0 in elimination games so far in this tournament, it just looks like this team refuses to do the latter.

“We’re used to the emotional rollercoaster by now, which I think is really good for us heading into tomorrow,” Taylor said. “Like Cal said, I think it’s going to be a pretty good contest again.”

Stanford will play Vanderbilt in the finale of the three-game series tomorrow at noon with a berth in the College World Series in Omaha on the line. The game will again be televised on ESPN2.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park is the Head Copy Editor at The Stanford Daily. Even though he is finally able to get into R-rated movies now, he instead chooses to spend his time writing half the sports section every week. Do-Hyoung is a sophomore originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.