As the clock rounded midnight and headed toward 1 a.m., Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. was rounding third base and heading home following a Dominic Keegan single to shallow right field in the bottom of the ninth.
Keegan’s walk-off single lifted Vanderbilt to a 5-4 win over Ole Miss in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday night in Hoover, Alabama, and put an exclamation point on a come-from-behind Commodore win.
"I was kind of looking for a fastball lower in the count,” Keegan said. “But in the end there once Kikè (reached) third base, I just needed to put the ball in play."
The Commodores appeared to be on cruise control with a 1-0 lead heading into the sixth inning. Freshman pitcher Christian Little was in the middle of a breakout game, even hitting up to 95 miles er hour on the radar gun, before abruptly exiting after recording just one out in the sixth inning.
Little went 5.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run with seven strikeouts on 71 pitches. It was the deepest the 6-foot-4 freshman went into a game this season, and it was the first time in his last six starts that he didn’t allow a home run. He was just two pitches shy of his career high and he tied a career-high in strikeouts.
Corbin admitted that he took the 17-year-old out of the game due to cramps/spasms and it was nothing more than being overly cautious.
“(Christian) was throwing a lot of strikes,” Corbin stated. “He was up in the count. I thought he pitched extremely well and was able to land the secondary pitches.”
With Little watching from the dugout, the Ole Miss bats got to reliever Hugh Fisher. A 1-0 lead evaporated into a 3-1 deficit in a matter of minutes. Instead of wallowing, the Commodores went to work.
They tied it up in the bottom half of the inning before Ole Miss tacked on the go-ahead run in the eighth. An RBI single by Isaiah Thomas brought home Javier Vaz and advanced Bradfield Jr. to second. He later moved to third on a wild pitch, setting up Keegan to be the hero.
"As a team you’ve got to counter punch,” Corbin said. “You’ve got to do something in response to them and that all boils down to competition and competing. If you can't compete within this league, then you're probably not going to last very long. We have had a lot of good battles with a lot of SEC teams throughout the season. The ones you remember are the ones like tonight when you play a really tenacious team.”
No. 4 Vanderbilt now gets No. 1 seed Arkansas on Thursday night at 8 p.m. CST on the SEC Network. The Razorbacks dominated No. 8 seed Georgia 11-2 on Wednesday.
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