By JOHN ZENOR, Associated Press
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Vanderbilt pulled off a triple steal in a five-run ninth inning that included six stolen bases as the Commodores ran their way to an 8-6 victory over Florida in the Southeastern Conference tournament Saturday.
Anthony Gomez singled home the go-ahead run — and then stole second, third and home — for Vanderbilt (33-25), which is aiming for its first SEC tournament title since 2007.
The Commodores, who reached the final game for the sixth time in nine trips under coach Tim Corbin, face Mississippi State in Sunday's championship game.
Vanderbilt fueled the comeback win over the Gators (42-18) with its flurry of stolen bases that included the triple steal with the bases loaded when Gomez made his dash to home plate.
"It was, 'Why not?'" Gomez said. "Just try to push them as much as we can."
He added that the steal of home "kind of happened, spur of the moment."
Will Cooper held off swinging on the pitch and then delivered a two-run single.
"That was as big of an inning as we've had all year," Corbin said.
The Commodores had entered the inning down 4-3, but touched up closer Austin Maddox for five hits and two walks.
"We got exposed there in the ninth," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Nobody likes to lose, but I'm glad it happens this week and not next (in an NCAA regional). Trust me, we'll get that cleaned up."
Florida scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth and had the bases loaded before Vanderbilt reliever Drew VerHagen got Justin Shafer to pop up to right field on his lone pitch to end the game.
Gomez had two hits and two RBIs, plus the three stolen bases in the ninth.
Brian Johnson went 4 for 5 with four RBIs, including one in the bottom of the ninth, and doubled twice to lead the Gators, whose own comeback bid fell short.
"We showed a lot of fight in our team," said Johnson, who starred at the plate a day after pitching his first career complete game in a win over South Carolina. "Hopefully it's a good sign of things to come for what we have coming up next."
The Commodores started the rally with help from their bench. Pinch-hitters Connor Castellano and Andrew Harris led off with a double and sacrifice bunt, respectively. Mike Yastrzemski then drove in the tying run with a bunt single. He was caught stealing but Kemp moved to third, allowing him to score on Gomez's dribbler to left.
As it turns out, that was just the start of all the running around.
"That was one of the craziest (innings) I've ever been a part of," Gomez said.
The Gators had loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but reliever Will Clinard (7-2) got Vickash Ramjit to ground into a double play and keep Vanderbilt within one run.
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