Fullerton eliminates GaTech with ninth-inning rally
OMAHA, Neb. -- Cory Vanderhook took one swing the entire game for Cal State Fullerton. It sent the ball bouncing 90 feet away -- more than enough to prevent the Titans from making a depressing trip home.
Vanderhook's two-run, pinch-hit infield single keyed Cal State Fullerton's ninth-inning comeback, and the Titans eliminated Georgia Tech with a 7-5 victory at the College World Series on Sunday.
"I'm just happy to come through for the team," the senior catcher said. "It wasn't the best hit, but I'll take it."
With Georgia Tech leading 5-4 and an out away from advancing, Blake Davis singled, Brett Pill doubled and Danny Dorn was intentionally walked by closer Matt Wieters.
Vanderhook, the nephew of Titans third-base coach Rick Vanderhook, slapped Wieters' first pitch up the middle. Shortstop Michael Fisher charged to his left but couldn't handle the slow-bouncing ball, which took a bad hop and rolled away as two runs scored.
"It looked like a routiner," second baseman Mike Trapani said. "That's the worst hop I've ever seen."
The hit sent the exuberant Titans out of their dugout in celebration, mobbing Pill and Davis with high-fives and hugs.
"It was exciting -- just unbelievable," Titans starting pitcher Dustin Miller said. "I'm still shaking right now."
Posted in Cal State Fullerton's dugout was a sign that suited the moment: "Never tell a Titan he can't do something. BELIEVE."
"Nothing I've ever experienced or been involved with has been as crazy as that, or exciting as that," Titans coach George Horton said.
"That's a record, the best 90-foot hit I've ever seen."
The Titans will play top-seeded Clemson in an elimination game Tuesday. The Tigers lost to North Carolina 2-0 in the late game Sunday.
Vanderhook transferred to Cal State Fullerton before the season from South Carolina, which was eliminated by Georgia Tech in the regionals last year.
"I said before the game, 'If I get in today, I'm not going to let Georgia Tech end my season two years in a row.'" Vanderhook said. "It's that much sweeter against Georgia Tech."
Brandon Tripp followed Vanderhook's hit with an RBI single that fell in front of left fielder Jeff Kindel, making it 7-5.
Ryan Paul (3-1) got five outs to earn the victory on a steamy 92-degree day at Rosenblatt Stadium, with dugout fans blowing wisps of water onto the players and many in the crowd fanning themselves with game programs to stay cool.
Wieters (1-3), who started the game at catcher, allowed three runs and four hits in 1 1-3 innings for Georgia Tech. It was the second time in the College World Series that the Yellow Jackets blew a late lead. They gave up eight eighth-inning runs in an 8-4 loss to Clemson on Friday.
"Probably two of the toughest losses I've ever been part of," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. "We had the lead both games, and not to be able to close them out is hard to take.
Wieters hit a questionable go-ahead homer in the seventh, lining Miller's first pitch of the inning to left. Dorn went back to the wall and leaped, but a shirtless fan snatched the ball with his bare hands before the left fielder could make the play.
The umpires ruled the hit a home run, and Horton didn't dispute the call. Television replays were inconclusive as to whether 17-year-old Jason Schmidt of Mitchell, S.D., prevented Dorn from making the play.
"I hit the wall, I didn't really feel anything," Dorn said. "Everything happened so quick."
Georgia Tech took a 3-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Kindel, a sacrifice fly by Whit Robbins and an RBI single by Wes Hodges. The Yellow Jackets made it 4-0 in the third when first baseman Pill mishandled Fisher's grounder with the bases loaded, allowing a run to score.
Cal State Fullerton closed the gap in the fourth when Dorn hit into a run-scoring double play. Justin Turner's two-out RBI single in the next inning made it 4-2.
The Titans tied it in the sixth on Tripp's RBI triple off the 408-feet sign in dead-center, and Clark Hardman's liner down the third-base line.
Wieters became the first person to pitch and play catcher in a College World Series game since The Citadel's Gettys Glaze, on June 4, 1990 -- also against Cal State Fullerton.
"The ball just didn't quite bounce the Yellow Jackets' way," Hall said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press