OMAHA — The nerves, or in this case “jitters,” were flowing for Vanderbilt leadoff hitter Austin Martin as he approached the plate for the first time in the Commodores' opening-round contest against Louisville, and understandably so.
The beach balls were flying and the fans were buzzing in the TD Ameritrade Park outfield as a crowd of more than 22,000 entered the stadium, anxious to take in the second day of this year’s College World Series on a nearly perfect Father's Day afternoon.
“I definitely did have the jitters. I mean, who wouldn’t coming into this amazing environment,” Martin said. “But I just tried to keep it simple, just tried to see the ball as well as possible.”
With one pitch and one boisterous “ping” of the bat, Martin extinguished his nerves and gained the attention of virtually everyone in the park. His leadoff home run off Louisville starter Reid Detmers' first pitch put a charge into the already raucous crowd and ultimately set the tone on what be a memorable day for Martin and the Commodores.
“It was huge (for Martin to lead off with that home run),” said Vanderbilt starter Drake Fellows, who picked up the win in the Commodores' 3-1 victory on Sunday.
“That gets everybody up in the lineup, and you know everyone in the lineup can do some damage. For Austin to lead off the first inning with a home run on the first pitch is huge and gives everybody that confidence they need.”
The leadoff home run was the first at the CWS since 2015, but Martin wasn’t done adding his name to the record books on Sunday.
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Following a double by Julian Infante in the seventh inning with the teams tied 1-1, Martin became just the second player over the last eight seasons --and the first Commodore ever -- to connect on two home runs in the same game at the CWS as he powered what was ultimately the game-winning homer out among the beach balls in the left-field bleachers.
The two-home-run game marked Martin's second in a row. The All-American third baseman crushed two home runs against Duke in the Super Regional final in Nashville.
The two home runs were part of a memorable day, but the focus after the game was still on that opening pitch and the home run that will go down in Vanderbilt lore.
“I’m happy for him that he can (lead off a game with a home run). I think it’s a very difficult game to play,” Commodores coach Tim Corbin said. “I think (the opening game) is the toughest one all teams have to play. To start off in this environment isn’t easy. There’s an adrenaline rush and to settle in, Austin in that moment right there, his ability to center on the baseball, not understanding the rhythm of the pitch and the speed, that’s a clutch moment. Those are different people that do those things. That’s not common.”
Martin’s big day also led the Commodores to their 55th win of the season, a school record.
The historic day will be in the rearview mirror quickly for Vanderbilt, however, as the Commodores will face Mississippi State, who came from behind to defeat Auburn 5-4 Sunday night, in a winner’s bracket game Tuesday at 7 p.m.