The Hoosiers rolled over No. 18 Radford 7-1 in Friday's regional opener, all behind Kyle Hart's dominant performance and a couple three-run innings. Full recap. In the nightcap, Vanderbilt did the same to Lipscomb, using seven innings of 4-hit ball from Carson Fulmer and a five-run 6th to power themselves to a 9-1.
Saturday night, after Radford and Lipscomb battle to keep their seasons alive for at least one more day, Indiana, one of the best programs in college baseball over the past three years, and Vanderbilt, probably the single best program in college baseball over that same time period, will face off in a winner's bracket contest of the utmost importance.
The loser of the Indiana-Vanderbilt game will have to win an elimination game on Sunday afternoon just to get another shot at the winner on Sunday night. Getting to the Super Regional after losing on Saturday night would require three straight wins, and two over the winner of Saturday's game. On the hand, the winner of Saturday's game will have two opportunities to win one game against whichever team survives Sunday's elimination game.
We've already previewed Vanderbilt here and here. We now also know that LHP Phillip Pfeifer (4-4, 4.06 ERA) will start on Saturday night against the Hoosiers. It will be just the sixth start of the season for Pfeifer, which suggests that this will be something of a committee day for Vanderbilt.
Indiana will throw RHP Christian Morris, whose struggles we documented throughout April, but who has been good, if not better than good, in his last couple outings. If things go awry for Morris, everyone should be available but Kyle Hart. Thomas Belcher, the only other Hoosier pitcher to go on Friday, threw two innings.
One thing that was obvious to those in the ballpark getting their first glimpse at Vanderbilt on Friday was the Commodores' speed. Specifically, leadoff man Ro Coleman would appear to be a guy Morris will need to keep off the bases. But according to Vandy skipper Tim Corbin, that's easier said than done.
"It's daunting from several levels really," said Corbin. "The fact he's either side -- right-handed, left-handed -- so it never looks like you have a clear advantage. He throws the bunt game at you and then hits the ball hard the opposite way then hits the ball to the pull side, then he gets hit by a pitch. There was a wide array of offense from him and it allows Rhett to go behind him and use the hole if he has to and hit. Those nights aren't easy to come by and the fact he got on base five times really helped our ball club."
Corbin had little to say about Indiana, but noted that his team will have a battle on their hands Saturday night. On the Hoosiers, he said, "I've seen them on tape, but I'd lie to you if I knew a whole lot about them because I try to stay contained in the team that we're playing. We don't have 24 hours, but we've got about 15 to look them over, but they've got a lot of kids off that College World Series team from a couple of years ago so they're veteran in some spots but they're throwing a kid with a good arm tomorrow so we're just going to have to continue to pitch well."
First pitch is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night and will be shown on the SEC Network or ESPN 67 or something.