Pitcher Jack Armstrong’s pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 13th drove in Andrew Giobbi with the game-winning run as Vanderbilt defeated Illinois State 8-7  Friday in the opening game of the Louisville Regional.
It was the longest NCAA tournament contest in VU history.
Giobbi got on base with a one-out double. After Curt Casali was intentionally walked, Armstrong, who was 1-for-2 in three plate appearances this season, was sent to bat in place of Jordan Wormsley. Armstrong, a sophomore, hit a 1-1 pitch to right field for the first RBI of his career.
Vanderbilt’s last victory in an NCAA tournament opener was 2007 against Austin Peay (2-1 in 11 innings). The last time it began with a victory outside of Hawkins Field was in 2004, when it defeated George Mason 7-3 at Virginia and ultimately advanced to the Super Regional for the first – and only – time in school history.
The Commodores were 4-2 in extra-inning games during the regular season.
Illinois State had bases loaded with one out in the 13th inning and runners at first and second with one out in the 12th. Drew Hayes got out of both jams with double-play ground balls.
In all, the Commodores used five pitchers. Four relievers limited the Redbirds to one run on six hits over 9.2 innings. Hayes was the winning pitcher and improved to 6-0 on the season.
Vanderbilt (42-17) held its normal number-one starting pitcher, Sonny Gray, for Saturday's second-round matchup and went with Taylor Hill in his place, Hill beat Illinois State (31-23) earlier this season but allowed six runs (four earned) in just 3.1 innings pitched.
The Commodores trailed 3-0 after the first inning and 6-2 after the top of the fourth.
Grayson Garvin replaced Hill and limited the Redbirds to one run on four hits in 4.1 innings. The sophomore left-hander struck out six and walked one.
Aaron Westlake and Joe Loftus hit sixth-inning home runs as Vanderbilt took the lead for the first time. Westlake tied it 6-6 when he followed Anthony Gomez’s lead-off double with this team-leading 13th home run of the season. Loftus added a solo shot two batters later.
At Jim Patterson Stadium - Louisville, Ky.
(all times CDT)
Game 1: Vanderbilt 8, Illinois State 7 (13 innings)
Game 2: Louisville 11, Saint Louis 2
Game 3: Illinois State vs. St. Louis, 11 a.m.
Game 4: Vanderbilt vs. Louisville, 3 p.m.
Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, 11 a.m.
Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5, 3 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary): Winner of Game 6 vs. Loser of Game 6, 5 p.m.