It looked, for a few minutes Friday, like Vanderbilt was going to easily take the first game of the Nashville Super Regional. By the end of the third inning, the Commodores led 10-0 and Tyler Beede was looking like the good Tyler Beede. And then the fourth inning started.
By the time he was pulled with two outs in the fifth inning, Beede had given up five hits, walked three more, hit two batters and thrown a wild pitch to boot -- all leading to six runs that made a once-unassailable lead look a little less so. The broadcasters started to remark that there might be a game in Nashville after all. But then Beede was gone, and after a few struggles by first-time reliever Tyler Ferguson, it stopped. Vanderbilt would score one more run in the bottom of the seventh, but outside that, the best on both sides remained silent.
What that means for Vanderbilt in the short term is all positive: The Commodores now need to win just one of the remaining two games to get to Omaha. That's a very small amount of breathing room, since another win by the Cardinal would put Vanderbilt in a win-or-stay-home situation, but it's more cushion than Stanford has right now.
But the meaning over the longer term is a little less certain. Beede has been inconsistent this year, and the outing Friday doesn't inspire much confidence that he has everything figured out. At the same time, it's hard to see the Commodores winning in Omaha without him. Beede has worked the most innings of any Vanderbilt pitcher this year -- but in those 103 innings, he's put 62 men on base through walks or hits batsmen.
The danger of that wildness was clear on Friday. It almost cost the Commodores the game, and spoiled a perfect chance to spare the rest of the pitching staff. And you have to wonder whether Vanderbilt is now at the point where they can't win without Tyler Beede, but they can't be entirely confident that they can win with him.