Stony Brook's Vanderka wanted the ball in biggest game of season
The third inning had just been completed against LSU in Game 3 of the Baton Rouge Super Regional and Stony Brook baseball coach Matt Senk had a very, well, frank message for sophomore starting pitcher Frankie Vanderka, the former star at MacArthur High School.
Vanderka recounted his coach's words: "He comes up to me and says, 'Hey, Frank, if you walk one more guy, I'm going to have to take you out of the game.' I had four walks in three innings. After that, I just bore down and started throwing strikes."
He did not walk another batter.
His complete-game, 129- pitch three-hitter highlighted a 7-2 victory in the deciding game and secured Stony Brook's first appearance in the College World Series. The Seawolves meet UCLA on Friday in Omaha, Neb.
No one who knows Vanderka was surprised with his effort against No. 7 LSU.
In his freshman season at MacArthur, Vanderka captivated coach Steve Costello at long toss. "He just wasn't robotic like everyone else," Costello said of the pitcher's mechanics.
An All-County high school career later, he enrolled at Stony Brook.
Vanderka is primarily the Seawolves' closer. He was the losing pitcher in Game 1, giving up a run and two hits in the 12th inning as LSU rallied to win its only game.
Senk knew he was going to go to Vanderka in Game 3; he just didn't tell him right away.
"I went to bed thinking Frankie was our best option," Senk said. "When I woke up, I still felt Frankie was the guy. It just seemed to make sense. I said to him, 'How do you feel about starting tonight's game?' He was pretty matter of fact. He said, 'I want the ball.' We were good to go."
Vanderka is 3-3 with a 2.37 ERA in 20 games, six as a starter. He tossed a no-hitter against NJIT last season, the first in program history, which dates to 1966.
"Clearly he had the stuff to get the job done," Senk said. "I think Frank is another one of our guys that has the makeup. He's going to go out and compete and do everything he can to help us win."
Vanderka had quickly dismissed his rough outing in Game 1, saying, "I didn't really think about it, I just wanted to go out and throw. It's a great feeling knowing that Coach has the confidence to throw you out there in any situation. I normally close, so throwing nine innings is pretty crazy. He asked if I was up to it; right away I told him definitely."
There were no second thoughts, even when he stepped on the mound in front of nearly 12,000 raucous LSU fans.
"If you have a pulse, you notice it," catcher Pat Cantwell of West Islip said of the crowd.
Vanderka seemed unaffected, saying, "When there's so many, you just kind of drown it out. It's almost like one big roar. You don't hear any words. You just feel it more than anything."
Vanderka is ready for the World Series. Can the Seawolves win it all?
"It's not crazy,'' he said. "We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing."