OMAHA, Neb. – Jack Leiter didn’t want to wonder if it was his last game at Vanderbilt. In two weeks he will be one of the first names in the MLB draft; in a few minutes he would be on the hill at the College World Series and hit halfway across the state of Mississippi.
In such situations, Leiter relies on his father’s wisdom. Al Leiter played 19 seasons in the majors, won three World Series and sat in a sea of maroon at TD Ameritrade Park on Monday night.
“He’s played a lot of big games,” said Jack Leiter. “And I think that advice somehow helped because the main thing with any big game is not to make it bigger than it is and remember that it’s the same game you’ve played since you were a kid, no matter whether 10 people are watching or 24,000 like tonight. “
Head pushed Vanderbilt within one game of his second straight national championship, beating eight in one 8-2 win over Mississippi State in game 1 of the CWS finals. The Commodores piled up seven runs in the lower part of the first inning and immediately took the non-partisan crowd out of the game.
The competition was postponed for an hour on Monday night due to a storm that never arrived. But the Commodores’ bats did it in a way. Vanderbilt, who averaged just four runs per game in Omaha, nearly doubled that output by the second inning. But there were only three hits.
Mississippi State lefty Christian MacLeod went two of his first three batter, then Tate Kolwyck hit with a pitch. The fleeting blow to Kolwyck’s foot was so small it was checked by the umpires, but when MacLeod struck another blow on his next pitch there was no ambiguity. The faulty pitch on Parker Noland’s shoulder scored Vanderbilt’s first run, then CJ met Rodriguez in the single and after a pop-out Isaiah Thomas doubled the Commodores 4-1.
MacLeod was eliminated after just 2/3 of an inning, becoming the first pitcher to fail the first inning in the CWS Finals. Chase Patrick took the hill and handed a three-run homer to nine-hole hitter Jayson Gonzalez. The crowd sat in stunned silence. It was 7-1.
Just six days earlier, MacLeod only lasted 1.2 innings against Virginia. On a Sunday call to the media, MacLeod said he had been working on his fastball commando and felt good and ready to leave. Bulldogs trainer Chris Lemonis said MacLeod was trying to do too much.
Right fielder Tanner Allen said the Bulldogs wouldn’t point a finger at anyone.
“We pick each other up,” said Allen. “When you watch him work in the offseason and fall and spring practice as a teammate, all you can do is just pat his butt and lift him up and encourage him because he gets the ball in The Sun. will rise again for him.
“I know he’s probably causing a lot of buzz on social media right now, but 99.9% of those people have never played a national championship game and have never played in front of maybe 500 people. So he’s a great player. I’m here for us again. “
Head, who threw 123 pitches in a 1-0 loss to NC State a week ago, went six innings on Monday, scattering three hits and two runs. He touched 96 mph and threw 107 pitches.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin was asked what he said to Leiter in what was likely his last game.
“Good game,” said Corbin, and then went on with his next question.
Lemonis thought the Bulldogs had made some good swings in Leiter, the national strikeout leader projected by ESPN No. 4 in the July 11th MLB draft. But the first inning was too much to overcome.
“It’s good,” said Lemonis. “I mean, this guy is going to be in the top 5 in the country for a reason. He’s going to be in the big leagues here soon. But I thought we were fine. I thought it was a 3-2 game. we had to win against him late. We just didn’t get this opportunity. “
If the Bulldogs had any consolation on Monday, then their bullpen was superb, allowing only two hits the rest of the way. As they prepared for Tuesday, they had something else to look forward to: they don’t have to face leaders.
“Jack must have set the tone tonight,” said Corbin. “He played very well. It was also a tough pitch. This team doesn’t give in. They fight on every field. They make it very difficult.”