In nearly five-hour battle, Vanderbilt beats Arizona in College World Series

Although Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park provided the perfect backdrop for the College World Series, it didn’t provide the perfect finish for Arizona, as it lost its opening round game to Vanderbilt in 12 innings. (Photo by Erin Slinde/Cronkite News)

OMAHA, Nebraska – Twelve innings, four hours, 51 minutes.

It was the fourth-longest game in College World Series history but also a heart-breaking one for Arizona in its opening-round meeting with Vanderbilt. The nearly five-hour competition Saturday was not enough time for Arizona to find a way to take down Vanderbilt’s collection of skilled pitchers.

“Sometimes the game is hard when you’re playing a good opponent and good pitcher,” Arizona coach Jay Johnson said. “I’m comfortable with how we competed.”

The Wildcats will face Pac-12 rival Stanford at 11 a.m. MST Monday. When the teams met in May, Arizona dropped two of three.

A crowd of 23,870 showed up Saturday to watch the highly anticipated match-up between the Wildcats and the defending national champions from 2019.

“With all these fans and everybody, they’re just coming to watch us play our best brand of baseball,” Arizona sophomore pitcher Chase Silseth said. “What’s there to be nervous about? We’re just playing a game.”

Junior pitcher Kumar Rocker, one of the highest-ranked prospects in this year’s MLB draft, started for Vanderbilt.

“Somebody is going to give that dude seven million dollars here in the next couple weeks,” Johnson said.

Rocker did have a rocky start as Arizona freshman designated hitter Jacob Berry and sophomore first baseman Branden Boissiere hit doubles in the first inning to put the Wildcats on the board. Johnson thought his team started the game “in character “ by coming out strong and scoring three runs in the first.

Silseth started for the Wildcats and threw over 100 pitches before he was relieved.

“I thought he competed great. I’m very pleased with what Chase did,” Johnson said. “I think he showed his character tonight in terms of how he executed.”

Silseth threw just over six innings, his longest run since throwing seven innings against Utah in April.

“I was just battling out there to give my team a chance to win,” he said. “I kept my cool and just enjoyed the moment.”

Senior shortstop Jayson Gonzalez brought Vanderbilt back into the game when he scored a two-run home run to tie the game at 3 in the fourth inning.

On Rocker’s 100th pitch of the game in the sixth inning, sophomore right fielder Ryan Holgate hit a two-run home run to put the Wildcats back on top 5-3.

Freshman center fielder Enrique Bradfield added another run to Vanderbilt’s score with a base hit that brought Gonzalez home in the seventh inning. Sophomore shortstop Carter Young then hit a two-run homer to put Vanderbilt up 6-5.

The Wildcats went into the ninth inning down 6-5. Freshman catcher Daniel Susac hit a double that gave Arizona fans a slight glimpse of hope. But momentum began to shift when a fan ran onto the field and was chased down by field security. Although removing the fan caused quite the delay, junior center fielder Donta Williams’ sacrifice fly would bring home a run for the Wildcats and tie the game at 6.

The crowd roared as the two teams went back and forth into extra innings. At the bottom of the 12th, Vanderbilt had the bases loaded. Gonzalez scored a run to give Vanderbilt the 7-6 win.

“It felt like we were on the ropes every inning doing everything we could to get out of it,” Johnson said. “Just came up a little bit short.”

Johnson added that he was “disappointed for our players, but we’ll be ready to go on Monday.These guys love playing together and we want to continue to play together and want to keep going.”

Erin Slinde erin slin-dee
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Erin Slinde expects to graduate in August 2021 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Slinde has done color commentary and play-by-play for the ASU volleyball team on the PAC 12 Plus Network.