One wild pitch allowed Vanderbilt to achieve two different, yet significant milestones.
Conrad Gregor raced home from third base on a wild pitch and scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth of a 3-2 victory over No. 22 Louisville on Tuesday night at Hawkins Field in the first Battle of the Barrel.
Vanderbilt (24-24) now has a .500 record for the first time all season and has come back from a 7-15 mark on March 23.
“It is our best record since February so it feels good,” Vanderbilt outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said.
At the same time, coach Tim Corbin picked up his 400th victory in 10 years at Vanderbilt. In 16 years as a college head coach, he has 506, having surpassed the 500 mark last month.
“Sometimes you don’t enjoy any of them and I guess that is the sad truth of winning,” Corbin, the second winningest coach in school history, said. “I should listen to my own words sometimes when I talk to the kids about enjoying the moment and enjoying today because once today is gone it is over with.”
Louisville (33-16) led by a run twice but the Commodores came back both times, the second when Yastrzemski’s two-out single knotted it up in the seventh. Gregor then drew a lead-off walk in the eighth and advanced on a sacrifice bunt and moved to third on a groundout.
Right-hander Dace Kime came in to face Jack Lupo. His first pitch was high and inside and went awry. The ball missed hitting Lupo and deflected off the top of catcher Kyle Gibson’s glove, scooting all the way to the backstop. Gibson tried to track it down but didn’t get a throw off as Gregor slid in safely.
“It doesn’t always look pretty but they don’t ask how sometimes,” Corbin said. “We got a guy to third base and when you get a guy to third base there is a lot things that can happen in order to score him. We just happened to be able to score off that.”
Vanderbilt improved to 8-2 against Louisville since 2008. This year the schools added a traveling trophy to the rivalry. The Commodores took home a wooden barrel, which signifies each state’s ties to the bourbon (Kentucky) and whiskey (Tennessee) industries.
The Commodores have won seven of nine with six regular-season games remaining. It is a long way from when they opened the season by losing seven of their first eight.
Now, they’ll try to attain more wins than losses for the first time. Two Southeastern Conference series remain – at No. 4 LSU this weekend before closing out the regular season by hosting No. 25 Ole Miss next week.
Vanderbilt is tied for eighth place in the SEC and must finish among the top 10 teams in the league to reach the conference tournament.
“Now that we got here it is not a sense of relief,” Yastrzemski said. “We have a lot to go still. We still have two more series and we got to just keep pushing. You can’t settle for .500. We’re not accepting that.”