Tony Kemp had a hit, a walk, a stolen base, was hit by two pitches and scored two runs, including the go-ahead one, as Vanderbilt rallied with five runs in the ninth and defeated Florida 8-6 in a Southeastern Conference tournament semifinal Saturday at Hoover, Ala.
"We had a really big ninth inning," coach Tim Corbin said. "It was big. It was as big of an inning as we have played all year. ... We held it together. They are tough to put away. They are a very good team."
Kemp, the second baseman, got the Commodores out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth with a defensive play that resulted in an inning-ending double play. He then made it 5-4 when he scored from third with two out in the ninth on a single by Anthony Gomez.
Gomez provided insurance when he stole home as part of a triple steal, and Will Cooper broke it open with a two-RBI single.
"It is not a play that we hadn’t worked on, because it is something that we do right before we start practice," Corbin said of the steal of home. "It happened because Anthony is an instinctual base runner and he could pull it off.”
Vanderbilt eventually stole six bases in the ninth against Florida closer Austin Maddox, and set a tournament single-game record with seven steals. Gomez, who had seven for the season, stole three. Conrad Gregor added two steals.
Connor Castellano, who led off the ninth with a pinch-hit double, scored the tying run on Mike Yastrzemski’s second successful squeeze of the tournament.
Florida answered with two runs in the bottom of the ninth and loaded the bases with two out against reliever Will Clinard, the Commodores’ fourth pitcher of the contest. Drew VerHagen replaced Clinard and got the final out on his first pitch.
"Reflecting back after the game, closers don’t necessarily do a great job of holding runners — they don’t have many base runners to begin with," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "... We got exposed there in the ninth, and they did a really nice job, and it is what it is. We have some things to work on. Trust me, we’ll get that cleaned up.”
The victory was Vanderbilt’s ninth straight overall. It was 3-0, including a victory over Florida, during the double-elimination part of the tournament, which for the first time included 10 teams. Beginning with the semifinals it went to single elimination.
Kemp led off the game with a double and eventually scored as part of a two-run first inning.
Connor Harrell’s RBI double made it 3-1 after two innings, but the Commodores managed just four hits from the third through the eight innings. They fell behind when Florida’ Nolan Fontana drove in a run with a fifth-inning single.
The Commodores will face Mississippi State, which defeated South Carolina in the other semifinal, in the championship game (2 p.m., ESPN2).