When I say Rhett Wiseman took a pitch to the neck, I don't mean a glancing blow or a ricochet. In the first inning against TCU on Friday night, the Vanderbilt outfielder took a shot so square in the jugular that the ball dropped straight down into his lap. But even though he briefly couldn't feel his arms or shoulder, Wiseman told his coach he was staying in the game. During his next at-bat, he ripped a leadoff single back up the middle to spark a two-run frame. An inning later, he crushed a ball over the bullpen in right field. In total, post-baseball-to-the-throat Wiseman accounted for three runs in Vanderbilt's 7-1 win over the Horned Frogs.
The defending national champs are going back to the College World Series finals.
But even after Wiseman's homer put Vandy up 5-0 in the fourth, you knew the lead wasn't necessarily safe -- this is, after all, the same TCU club that rallied from seven runs back in the eighth inning of an elimination game against N.C. State in the regional round. That's where Walker Beuhler stepped in. Beuhler -- one of three Commodores to go in the first round of last week's MLB Draft -- gave up just one run on four hits with eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings.
Things didn't go as well for TCU starter Tyler Alexander, who lasted just one out into the third inning. The Frogs threw the kitchen sink after his exit, pitching ace Preston Morrison in the fifth and sixth and closer Riley Ferrell in the seventh and eighth. But a Frogs relief corps that had been arguably the most dominant unit in the NCAA Tourney gave up four runs and allowed Vandy to run away and hide.
After Florida's series-extending win over Virginia, Vandy will have to wait until Saturday to find out who it will face in the national championship. But the Commodores now get two days to rest before the final start on Monday.
Wiseman and his neck can sure use it.
Florida 10, Virginia 5
This game actually began about as well as Virginia could have hoped. The Cavaliers scored a run in the top of the first, then watched ace pitcher Nathan Kirby -- throwing for the first time since injuring his arm in mid-April -- mow down six of the first seven Gator hitters.
The good feelings lasted all of two innings.
Kirby, clearly still working himself back into pitching shape, hit the wall in the third, when four Gator hits plated three runs and sent him to the dugout. Florida dominated the game from there on, adding a five-spot in the sixth to cruise to a relatively easy win and force a deciding game on Saturday. The same Gators team that mustered just two hits in a 1-0 loss to the Cavs on Monday tallied up 11 hits to stave off elimination.
On the defensive side, Florida got another quality postseason start from Logan Shore. He didn't have the prettiest stat line (four runs off eight hits in 6.1 innings), but notched his third win of the NCAA Tournament.
The Gators and Cavs face each other at 3 p.m. on Saturday to decide who advances to face Vandy in the national championship.