SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Of the four participants in this year’s MLB4 Tournament, Cal Poly was the only one that didn’t make the NCAA tournament a season ago. In fact, two of the three teams the Mustangs faced this weekend were in last year’s College World Series finals.
That didn’t affect Cal Poly’s confidence, though. And that was evident in Sunday’s tournament finale at Salt River Fields.
Facing a ninth-inning deficit against defending national champion Vanderbilt, Cal Poly rallied for a pair of runs with Tate Samuelson’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly lifting it to a 9-8, walk-off win. It provided a thrilling finish to the second annual MLB4 Tournament.
“We know we’re good. We knew that we could come in here and do some damage,” Samuelson said. “Although these are good teams, we knew we could put some good things together, and we did.”
It didn’t come without some adversity, though. Vanderbilt erased a 7-2 deficit with a five-run eighth inning, capped by Harrison Ray’s game-tying three-run homer. Then, after Cal Poly went down in order in the bottom of the frame, the Commodores took an 8-7 lead in the ninth on a Will Duff sacrifice fly.
Even after watching their sizable advantage turn into a deficit against one of the best programs in the country, the Mustangs stayed composed. Myles Emmerson led off the ninth with a double and scored two batters later on Cole Cabrera’s sac fly. Nick Marinconz reached on an error and Bradlee Beesley was intentionally walked, setting the stage for Samuelson to win it with a long drive to right-center field.
As Vanderbilt rallied back, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee didn’t let his team get down.
“I never let myself go there,” Lee said. “I’m hoping they can kind of key off of me and understand that’s the way it is, get to the next pitch.”
Before the wild finish, Cal Poly freshman right-hander Drew Thorpe, who made his first college start, outdueled Vandy lefty Jake Eder, MLB Pipeline’s No. 34 prospect in the 2020 Draft class. The Mustangs tagged Eder for three runs over 3 1/3 innings, while Thorpe tossed seven strong innings and allowed only two runs, both of which came on RBI groundouts in the sixth.
Cal Poly went 2-1 at the MLB4 Tournament, as did Michigan. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt and UConn each went 1-2 over the three days in Arizona.
But few moments during the weekend were more thrilling than the last ones.
“It was an unbelievable game,” Samuelson said. “We deserved to win that game, and we knew that. We weren’t going to give up, and we were going to do whatever it took to get that win.”
UConn tops Michigan for first win of season
According to Ben Maycock, UConn’s plane ride home from Arizona just got a lot better.
After losing on each of the first two days of the MLB4 Tournament, the Huskies ended the weekend on a positive note with a 7-1 win over Michigan at Salt River Fields on Sunday afternoon. Maycock put UConn out front with a solo homer in the fifth inning, the first of his college career, and the Huskies sealed the victory on Reggie Crawford’s three-run double in the eighth.
Crawford also had a two-run single in the sixth, finishing 2-for-4 with five RBIs.
Maycock, a redshirt junior outfielder, deposited an 0-1 pitch from Michigan right-hander Isaiah Paige well over the right-field wall, putting UConn back in front after the Wolverines had tied the game a half-inning earlier.
“It was awesome, it was awesome, I’ve just got to keep working, you know?” Maycock said. “Honestly, it was just right time, right place, put a good swing on it.”
Although Michigan lost its final game of the tournament, it won three games during its weekend trip to Arizona. Not only did the Wolverines beat Vanderbilt on Friday night and Cal Poly on Saturday afternoon, but they traveled to Tempe on Saturday night and notched a 5-0 victory over Arizona State.
Sunday’s loss to UConn was Michigan’s third game in less than 24 hours.