Vanderbilt's Gray fares best in super regional showdown

Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 12:28am

Two right-handers with professional futures took the mound on Friday night.

Vanderbilt’s first-round selection, Sonny Gray, looked the part. Oregon State’s fifth-round selection Sam Gaviglio, however, did not.

The Commodores took advantage and scored 10 earned runs off Gaviglio in an 11-1 blowout of the Beavers to open their best-of-three NCAA super regional at Hawkins Field.

“The kid was a tough customer and we were just fortunate to push across some runs early,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “That doesn’t happen to him. That was an anomaly. Give credit to our kids. There is a reason why it happened.”

Gaviglio, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, lasted just 5.1 innings and gave up 10 hits and six walks. In each of the first three innings, he retired the first two batters before he allowed at least one two-out walk.

In the first inning, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder allowed four runs on three walks and three singles — all with two outs. He stayed away from disaster for the next two frames. But in the fourth inning, he gave up back-to-back leadoff singles. Then Mike Yastrzemski cranked a three-run home run to give Vanderbilt (51-10) an 8-0 lead.

Gaviglio dropped to 12-3 and in his first appearance since he threw 136 pitches in a regional victory against Creighton last Saturday. Entering Friday’s matchup, he had pitched 115.1 innings and had a team-high 116 strikeouts. At one point this season, he pitched 42.1 straight scoreless innings.

“Sam was not sharp. There is no question about that,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “But I’m not going to get on Sam Gaviglio. He’s been a force all year. He’s tired and he’s thrown a lot of innings.”

Gray, on the other hand, picked up where he left off last week. In last Friday’s regional against Belmont, he retired the first 14 batters he saw. Against Oregon State, he put down the first seven hitters before he gave a single.

Gray (12-3), who was drafted 18th overall by the Oakland Athletics, gave up just one run on four hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. He struck out four to up his season total to 119 and didn’t let a runner advance past second until the sixth inning.

“Early in the game, we were going to attack them,” Gray said. “Oregon State’s a team that likes to work the count. So throwing first-pitch strikes was going to be huge. Later in the game, I went with some two-seam [fastballs] and was able to elevate and sink it and do what we have been doing here for a while.”

Gray’s four-seam and two-seam fastballs seemed to be working as he stayed above 90 miles per hour for most of the game. After one strikeout in the fourth inning, the stadium radar gun clocked him at 100 miles per hour. Gray laughed at the notion that it was an accurate reading.

Vanderbilt has won four NCAA Tournament games via shutout. And it might not be a coincidence that Gray has been on the mound for two of those victories and narrowly missed a third against Oregon State.

“He is such a competitive kid,” Corbin said. “Sometimes I think, as a coach, when you get the big lead, you are hoping your kids will bear down as if you have a one-run lead… I don’t think it would have mattered one way or the other with Sonny. He is pretty well locked in.”

• One away: For the first time in three super regional appearances, Vanderbilt won the series opener.

That puts the Commodores in great shape to lock up their first College World Series berth. They have been one win away from the CWS before — last year after tying the series against Florida State at one game apiece. But to be in the driver’s seat at this stage in the postseason is new for Vanderbilt.

“We talked about that right after the game, it just being a series,” Corbin said. “We’ve done that quite a few times this year. The guys have stayed isolated on what now is important. It is mature group. They are confident but they have some humility. They don’t let their confidence get out of control.

“… But 1-0 is very similar to what we have gone through this year. These kids will have a good approach again [Saturday].”

• Good relief: After Gray went out with two outs in the fifth inning, left-hander Corey Williams took his place on the mound. ‚Ä®Williams, who was drafted in the third round by the Minnesota Twins, retired all seven batters he faced as he closed out the game. In 2.1 innings, the redshirt sophomore threw three strikeouts.

Before Friday, he had pitched 30.1 innings and had a 5.64 ERA. A season-ending knee injury cut short his 2010 campaign.

“Corey has a very talented arm as everyone knows,” Corbin said. “The velocity is apparent. The command is coming. It is a work in progress.”

• High-scoring Dores: For the 21st time this season, Vanderbilt scored at least 10 runs in a game. The Commodores are 21-0 in those contests.

Garvin for Saturday: Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year Grayson Garvin (13-1) will take the mound for Vanderbilt on Saturday. Oregon State has not named a starter.