Jayson Gonzalez snuck a one-out, RBI single through the middle with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th giving Vanderbilt a 7-6 win over Arizona at the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
The Commodores (46-15) next play North Carolina State (36-18) at 6 p.m.
They moved into the winner’s bracket thanks to Gonzelez’s heroics that ended a game that went nearly five hours long.
Isaiah Thomas, 0-for-5 before the start of the inning, began the winning rally with an infield single up the middle. Parker Noland’s bunt then rolled safely between first and second.
One out later, Javier Vaz walked to load the bases for Gonzalez. Down 1-2 in the count to Arizona reliever Vince Vannelle (5-3), he fouled off a pitch before rolling the ball past the drawn-in infield for the winner.
Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Vanderbilt moved to 5-0 in College World Series openers and is now 17-7 all-time at the College World Series.
But for a while Saturday it looked like victory may be out of reach before a back-and-forth contest broke out late.
Down 5-3 with Gonzalez on second and one out in the seventh, Enrique Bradfield Jr. stepped in to face Arizona reliever Preston Price. Bradfield rolled a 3-2 pitch through the right side to cut the deficit to 5-4.
That set the stage for Carter Young, 0-for-3 before that at-bat, who changed the narrative by crushing a two-run shot out of the alley in right-center and giving Vanderbilt it’s first lead of the night at 6-5.
Vandy reliever Nick Maldonado gave up a double before a groundout to first in the top of the ninth. Luke Murphy came in and, after an infield hit to second, Donta Williams lifted a sacrifice fly to center scoring pinch runner Mac Bingham and tying the game at 6-all.
That’s how the score would stay until the fateful and final inning.
Much, much earlier in the evening, Williams reached base to begin the contest thanks to a Dominic Keegan error. Jacob Berry then crushed a 1-0 pitch into the right-field corner for a double and Branden Boissiere drove in Williams and Berry with a long double to left making it 2-0 Wildcats.
One out later, Kobe Kato lobbed a single into center. Daniel Susac worked a 3-2 count before rolling an RBI single to left pushing the score to 3-0.
Vandy quickly got one of those runs back in the bottom of the first thanks to a two-out single by Keegan followed by an RBI double off the bat of Troy LaNeve.
In the fourth, Vaz poked a single to center with two outs. That brought Gonzalez up and, on a 2-0 pitch, the senior drove a two-run shot out to right-center tying the score at 3-all.
That was the eighth homer of the season for Gonzalez and his second of the NCAA Tournament.
Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker had retired 15 hitters in row before plunking Kato in the right knee with two outs in the sixth. Ryan Holgate then stepped in and took a 1-1 pitch – the 100th of the night from Rocker – out to deep right making it 5-3.
Rocker went 5 2/3 innings and gave up five runs – three earned – on five hits. The junior struck out seven and 65 of his 100 pitches were strikes.
Chris McElvain (5-1) threw a scoreless 12th to become the winning pitcher.
Arizona starter Chase Silseth got one out before exiting in the seventh. The sophomore allowed four earned runs and seven hits.