[games that came out in 2019]Jayson Gonzalez, who watched 2019 national title, is Vanderbilt’s Omaha hero this time
Jayson Gonzalez turned on a pitch and blasted it over the left field wall at TD Ameritrade Park, where kids dove into the seats to retrieve the home run ball.
It was a towering shot that impressed his Vanderbilt teammates, but still meaningless.
That long ball in batting practice was Gonzalez’s only memorable swing of the 2019 College World Series, because he never played in a game.
So it must’ve been sweet for Gonzalez to see the ball land in a similar spot Monday night — this time for real — for the biggest home run of his life in Vanderbilt’s 8-2 win over Mississippi State in Game 1 of the national championship series.
“Yeah, I remember (that batting practice home run) a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “But this time around, I’m playing. … And I helped my team win, and played with a lot of confidence.”
Gonzalez hit a three-run home run to left to cap Vanderbilt’s decisive seven-run first inning. He rallied from an 0-2 count to a full count against newly-installed reliever Chase Patrick, who left a sweeping side-arm pitch over the heart of the plate.?
Gonzalez drilled it about 400 feet, and the Commodores never looked back. It was a patient at-bat for the only senior in Vanderbilt’s starting lineup.
“(Patrick) threw two pretty good sliders to Jayson with the 0-2 count, and Jayson stayed off them,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “To fight the battle to get to 3-2 was a victory in and of itself. To get a pitch and lift it — and he’s a strong kid — that was a quality at-bat by him.”
Vanderbilt is one win from a national championship — just like the 2019 team — with Game 2 on Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPN).
If the Commodores finish?off the title run, Gonzalez is likely the frontrunner for the College World Series Most Outstanding Player award.
In Vanderbilt’s opening win over Arizona, he had a two-run home run and a walk-off RBI single in the 12th inning. Against Mississippi State, his home run was one of Vanderbilt’s five hits, and he scored two of the eight runs.
Gonzalez has just a .233 batting average (7-for-30) in the NCAA Tournament, but almost every hit has made a major impact. Three of his nine home runs this season have come in the postseason.
Playing with a loose approach, especially after scoring seven quick runs, aided the Commodores with ace Jack Leiter on the mound. And the night started in a familiar way for Gonzalez — launching long balls in batting practice at TD Ameritrade Park.
“It started in BP because we were having fun out there,” Gonzalez said. “Hitting BP loose, taking ground balls loose, and trying to just have as much fun as we could. We just enjoyed the atmosphere we had tonight.”
But two years later, it’s undoubtedly more fun to hit a home run during a game than batting practice. Gonzalez can attest to that.
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