The win is Vanderbilt's 16th victory in its last 20 games and marks the school's first win in the NCAA Tournament since Vandy topped East Carolina, 2-1, in 1974. Vanderbilt also registered school records for single-season strikeouts by a pitching staff with 497 and runs in an NCAA Tournament game with seven.
"Again, Jeremy (Sowers) came out and pitched a very good game for us," Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin said. "He was very solid into the eighth inning. We took advantage of a few (George Mason) mistakes to widen the lead. In regional play, you have to play all nine innings - all 27 outs - because this game could have flipped flopped and could have turned around."
Friday's second game between Virginia and Princeton was rained out and rescheduled for 11 AM ET Saturday, pushing back Saturday's schedule. The Commodores should now meet the Virginia-Princeton winner at 7 PM ET Saturday.
Sowers (10-5) struck out four of the first seven batters he faced and struggled through only one inning – the third – when George Mason scored its only run off the southpaw on a wild pitch. He then settled down and retired 11 in a row.
"Sometimes you go out and you don't have the command that you normally do," Sowers said. "Fortunately, I was able to use my fastball effectively early to get a lot of strikes. I was leaving a lot of stuff up, but was using my velocity to get it by (the batters). As the game went on, I settled down and stuff got easier."
With the win, Sowers continues his climb through the VU record books. He becomes only the third Commodore hurler in school history to register 10 or more wins in a season and is the first since Jack Nuismer notched 10 in 1979. He also tied Kyle Balch with 23 career wins – fourth most at Vanderbilt. Sowers also broke his school record for innings pitched in a season at 119.1 while moving into second place at Vanderbilt with 335.1 career innings pitched.
"You almost take him (Sowers) for granted, because your expectation level is that he'll pitch so well every time out," Corbin added. "That (George Mason) is a good hitting team, and at times he made them look common-– and they are not a common hitting team. They are very gritty."
Nicolas duplicated the offensive production put on display last week at the Southeastern Conference Tournament where he earned All-Tournament accolades. The senior designated hitter recorded his third consecutive multi-hit game and has posted hits in nine of his last 15 at bats.
Vanderbilt scored the game's first two runs in the first inning. Ryan Klosterman scored on a throwing error by George Mason catcher Robby Jacobsen to give the Commodores a 1-0 lead. Antoan Richardson scored on a ground out RBI by Nicolas.
After George Mason trimmed the Vanderbilt lead to 2-1 in the third inning on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Sowers, the Commodores pushed their advantage to 3-1 in the bottom of the inning when Nicolas smashed a towering solo homer to left field.
The Commodores continued a season-long habit of scoring runs in the fifth inning. Vanderbilt, who has tallied 67 runs in the fifth inning this season, plated four runs in the frame thanks in part to three unearned runs.
Nicolas began the scoring when he singled in Klosterman from second base. Two batters later, VU pushed the lead to 5-1 when Warner Jones came home on an RBI fielder's choice by Aaron Garza. Tony Mansolino followed with a run-scoring single to right field that brought home Nicolas. The Commodores scored their final run of the inning when Garza scored from second base on a muffed catch by George Mason first baseman Chris Looze on a grounder from Worth Scott.
The Patriots managed two runs off Commodore reliever Jensen Lewis in the ninth on an RBI single by Jacobsen and a wild pitch that scored Kyle Barrett.
George Mason starter Eric Gibbons (6-5) took the loss. He pitched seven innings, allowing eight hits, five walks and seven runs (three earned) while striking out seven.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9-R H E George Mason(39-18) 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2-3 6 4 Vanderbilt(43-17) 2 0 1 0 4 0 0 0 X-7 9 2