NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt starter Jack Leiter dazzled once again and the Commodores took advantage of multiple Georgia Tech miscues and then hung on Saturday to win 4-3 at Hawkins Field.
Vanderbilt will now face Georgia Tech or Indiana State (31-20) at 8 p.m. Sunday. The Sycamores eliminated Presbyterian (22-23) with a 9-2 win Saturday and will need to beat the Yellow Jackets at 2 p.m. Sunday to earn a rematch with the Commodores.
Vandy (42-15) can advance to a Super Regional with a win Sunday or at 6 p.m. Monday.
“We won. That’s the bottom line,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. “We hit some balls hard that got caught with guys on base. We did what we needed to do defensively and pitching wise to put ourselves in position to get a positive outcome. That’s all that matters.”
The Dores are in that advantageous position thanks in large part to Leiter who recovered from an early, gut-punch solo home run and a shocking line-drive that ripped the glove off his left hand in the third inning. The sophomore struck out 11 and allowed one earned run in six innings.
Leiter left after 112 pitches and gave way to Nick Maldonado who threw a flawless seventh and spotless eighth before running into trouble in the ninth. A hit batter set up Drew Compton who bombed a two-run shot out deep to right.
Maldonado, however, struck out Jake DeLeo to end the night.
Tech made things close with the long ball and started the night with the long ball.
Kevin Parada crushed a solo home run to left off Leiter to lead off the fourth giving Georgia Tech a 1-0 lead.
“It was sort of supposed to happen the way it unfolded because I got behind, tried to throw off speed to a really good fastball hitter and it was a 3-1 count and kind of just grooved it in there a little bit,” Leiter said. “In batting practice guys pop up so was kind of hoping for that type of outcome.
“Made a very hittable pitch and he hit it hard and hit it far. I think it was easy to rebound from because it wasn’t necessarily a good pitch or a good count to be in.”
Vandy then caught a break in the home half when Dominic Keegan hit a harmless grounder to third – but the throw to first was errant. One out later Troy LaNeve was hit by a pitch.
CJ Rodriguez worked a 2-1 count and ripped a double off the top of the left-field wall tying the game. One pitch later LaNeve came scurrying home on a wild pitch giving Vanderbilt a 2-1 edge.
In the fifth, Parker Noland drove a long single to deep right field to begin the frame. After a fielder’s choice Enrique Bradfield took a ball in the foot.
That brought up Javier Vaz, a junior starting in left field due, in part, to an injury to Tate Kolywyck. Vaz sliced a grounder to short in what may have been a double-play ball – but the throw sailed into right field allowing Jayson Gonzalez and Bradfield to score making it 4-1.
That was plenty of support for Leiter (9-3) who recovered from the early stunner. Six of 11 strikeouts were on called-third strikes and he also battled his way through two walks and his own throwing error.
Leiter improved to 11-3 as a Commodore and lowered his career ERA to 2.15.
Georgia Tech starter Marquis Grissom went 4 1/3 innings and allowed four runs – all unearned – on two hits. He struck out two and worked around three walks.
Dalton Smith tossed 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in which he allowed only one hit.
The Yellow Jackets (30-24) made three errors and left five runners on base.