OMAHA, Neb. – Facing a two-run deficit after four innings, the Vanderbilt Commodores rallied for three runs in the top of the fifth and added another in the seventh to seal a 6-4 victory over UC Irvine in Game 6 of the 2014 College World Series in Omaha.
Coming into the game, the key for Elliot Surrey was to slow down the Commodores’ offense and quell their aggressive tendencies, but the southpaw had a rather difficult go-around in the top of the first, as Vanderbilt brought a little bit of everything to the plate.
Dansby Swanson led off with a four-pitch walk, followed by single through the left side from Bryan Reynolds on an 0-2 count. Vince Conde dropped down a sacrifice to move both runners into scoring position for sophomore slugger Zander Wiel.
Surrey got ahead 0-2 against Wiel, but once again could not capitalize, as Wiel sent a 1-2 pitch through the right side to plate Swanson for the early 1-0 lead. Vanderbilt responded by giving the Anteaters a dose of their own medicine, dropping down consecutive bunts (three of which were dropped down in the inning).
Xavier Turner’s squeeze toward first made for a play at the plate, as Reynolds swiftly avoided the tag from Jerry McClanahan to put the Commodores in front by two runs. Rhett Wiseman followed with a bunt down the line toward third, beating out the throw at first to load the bases. John Norwood followed by grounding into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play, limiting the damage for Surrey.
In the second, Surrey struggled once again when ahead in the count, as Swanson laced a single to left on a 1-2 count to put two aboard. However, Surrey left the inning unscathed and gave his offense the opportunity to bring UC Irvine back in the game – and they certainly grabbed that opportunity.
The key for Tyler Beede was to command his stuff and stymie a talented UC Irvine offense. However, it was a tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the junior right-hander. After tossing a flawless 1-2-3 bottom of the first, Beede struggled with his command in the second, allowing the Anteaters to make up some ground and then some.
A hit by pitch and base hit gave way to a Kris Paulino RBI single, and it was at this point that Beede was losing control of his heater. A wild pitch with Adam Alcantara at the plate moved Grant Palmer to third, proving costly, as the freshman left-fielder who scored the winning run in Saturday’s win over Texas, sacrificed to score Palmer from third.
Yet another wild pitch from Beede moved both Paulino and Alcantara into scoring position, setting up a two-run single by Taylor Sparks to give UC Irvine the 4-2 lead. Beede got out of the inning and proceeded to turn in a quiet third, but three free passes (two walks, HBP) in the fourth precipitated his removal from the game, as Walker Buehler closed out the frame in relief.
All the while, Surrey was cruising, retiring eight straight batters between the second and fourth. However, the Vanderbilt offense made sense of the Anteaters’ starter in the fifth, propelling themselves back to the lead.
Swanson led off the inning with a double down the line in left, followed by an infield single by Reynolds to put runners on the corners. A groundout by Conde and a double by Wiel put the Commodores back in the game, as the Commodores evened the score at 4-4. A pair of free passes by Surrey loaded the bases for Vanderbilt, at which point Mike Gillespie had enough, as Evan Brock was put into the game in relief.
Norwood responded by sending a sac fly to right, deep enough to plate Wiel from third to put the Commodores out front by a run. From here, the Commodores took control of the game, particularly behind the arm of Buehler.
After getting Chris Rabago to fly out to end the fourth, Buehler proceeded to put on a clinic. Through the seventh, the sophomore right-hander retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, striking out four straight between the seventh and eighth. While he overpowered the Anteaters with a mid-90s heater that exploded in the zone, the Commodores took advantage and delivered with an insurance run in the top of the seventh.
With runners on first and second, a costly wild pitch by Brock would advance Wiseman to third. Taking advantage, Norwood laced a single to left, sending Wiseman home for Vanderbilt’s sixth run of the game, extending their lead to two runs. Despite the surrendered run, Brock pitched serviceably well in relief of Surrey, working 2 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and just one walk.
Buehler surrendered a pair of free passes (walk, HBP) in the eighth with two outs, but rebounded with a strikeout of Alcantara to finish off the inning. In the ninth, Buehler retired the side and sealed the 6-4 victory for the Commodores.
All in all, Buehler worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings, surrendering not a single hit while fanning seven and walking two in quite the impressive relief outing, holding back a UC Irvine offense that jumped on Vanderbilt’s staff ace early in the going.
Vanderbilt will now face the winner of Wednesday’s elimination game between UC Irvine and Texas on Friday, June 20 at 3:00 p.m.