RALEIGH — Mike Yastrzemski did a solid job upholding the family baseball tradition Friday at Doak Field, and that was great news for Vanderbilt.
The junior right fielder went 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI, had a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly, was hit by a pitch, stole a base and had an outfield assist as the Commodores topped UNC Wilmington 8-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Raleigh Regional.
Vanderbilt (34-26) will play again Saturday at 7 p.m. against the N.C. State-Sacred Heart winner. Wilmington (38-22) will play the State-Sacred Heart loser at 2 p.m. in the tournament’s first elimination game.
Rain delayed the opening pitch of the schools’ first meeting and Wilmington’s first appearance in the tournament in four years by 35 minutes. Vanderbilt, in its seventh straight tournament, played in its first College World Series last season.
Yastrzemski is the grandson of Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who also played for the Raleigh Caps of the Carolina League in 1959, and the son of the late Mike Yastrzemski, who played for the 1984 and ’85 Durham Bulls.
“I think this was one more step in our confidence,” Mike Yastrzemski said. “We’re continuing to play well, and as long as we do that we’ll keep our confidence and keep having fun, and keep doing what we need to do to get the job done.”
Commodores starter, sophomore T.J. Pecoraro (2-4), who had Tommy John surgery last May and missed the CWS, went 72/3 innings and allowed the two runs on six hits, while tying his career high with eight strikeouts and no walks.
And he got plenty of offensive help. Anthony Gomez added a pair of hits and three RBIs. Riley Reynolds doubled and singled, and the Commodores finished with a season-high eight steals.
“T.J. pitched very well today,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, who said left-hander Sam Selman (9-3, 3.33) will start Saturday. “He went in there with the notion of throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes (and) we made the plays behind him. Mike threw a strike to the plate to nail the first runner (in the second inning with two outs) and that was a big momentum play for us because the game was still in question.”
Seahawks starter Tyler McSwain (9-4) went 32/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season, and allowed six runs – two earned – on seven hits with two strikeouts and three walks.
Hunter Ridge had three hits, including a double, for the Seahawks. Thomas Pope’s two-run home run in the seventh inning to avoid the shutout was his fifth of the season.
“It probably makes a little bit of difference, having not been here and really no one on the roster having been in the regional,” Wilmington coach Mark Scaff said. “The inning we got in trouble (the fourth), guys just couldn’t slow the game down enough. We’ll come back and play a little different baseball tomorrow.”
Josh Abshire, Wilmington’s sophomore catcher from Wakefield High, came on to catch in the bottom of the seventh but was pulled for pinch-hitter Matt Keeler in the ninth.
“I think we came ready to play and had a lot of momentum from the (CAA) Tournament,” Abshire said. “We were confident coming into the game. But a good team took advantage of our mistakes today.”
Vanderbilt put up two runs in the third, with Yastrzemski starting the rally with a double to center.
And the Commodores put the game away with a four-run, one-hit rally in the fourth that included a wild pitch, three walks and four stolen bases.