Conner Howell hit a two-run home run and Tony Kemp went 3-for-4 for Vanderbilt as the Commodores beat North Carolina 7-3 in the opening game of the College World Series.
Kemp led the game off with a single and advanced to second base on an error. He moved to third base on a groundout from Anthony Gomez, and scored on a sacrifice fly from first baseman Aaron Westlake. Kemp, the SEC Freshman of the Year, also stole a base and singled in a run to go with his three hits.
“He was a catalyst today,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “I liked his mentality to start to the game, and he played well offensively and defensively.”
North Carolina answered in the bottom of the first with a leadoff triple from Chaz Frank. Colin Moran plated Frank two batters later with a single to tie the game. The Tar Heels took the lead in the second frame with and RBI single from Seth Baldwin.
The game went back and forth with Vandy tying the game in the third and Carolina taking the lead again in the fourth, but the Tar Heels let scoring chances get away from them. They had bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings but only scored the one run in the fourth. They left 16 runners on base during the game.
“We weren’t able to get timely hits today,” Frank said.
Vanderbilt opened things up in the sixth inning with three runs, the first coming from an RBI double from Conrad Gregor that hit the yellow top of the left field wall. Harrell slapped his home run the next at-bat, a fly ball that landed over the left field bullpen. The Commodores added two more runs in the eighth on singles from Kemp and Gomez.
Vanderbilt awaits the winner of the Texas-Florida game and will play Monday evening, while North Carolina will play the loser earlier that afternoon.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said. “But it’s either going to be Texas or Florida, and that’s not going to let me sleep soundly tonight.”