NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Flashbacks of a 7-6 loss to Florida State in Game 3 of the 2010 Tallahassee Super Regional loomed in the minds of the Vanderbilt faithful heading into Sunday’s matchup with Stanford, but a pair of big innings by the Commodores offense helped erase those memories and gave the faithful a new positive one going forward – as such, the Commodores took a 12-5 victory over Stanford on Sunday to advance to their second College World Series in program history.
After watching Stanford walkoff on Saturday, the Commodores took charge and came out with an aggressive mindset at the onset of Sunday’s matchup. Dansby Swanson led off the top of the first with a base hit up the middle and stole second with Bryan Reynolds at the plate, who would move over Swanson on a grounder to second. Vince Conde followed with a base knock to center, plating Swanson for the early 1-0 lead.
With Zander Wiel at the dish, Conde swiped second and for good reason, as Wiel ripped a double to right that allowed Conde to score. Xavier Turner singled to put runners on the corners for Rhett Wiseman, who dropped down a sac bunt, bringing home Wiel from third.
At this point, the day was done for Stanford starter Logan James, as the sophomore southpaw had surrendered three runs on four hits having just recorded two outs. Marcus Brakeman entered in relief and proceeded to surrender an RBI single to John Norwood. After Norwood swiped second (the Commodores third swipe of the inning), Jason Delay took advantage and drilled one to left to plate Norwood for the fifth run of the inning.
After surrendering that hit to Daley, Brakeman started to settle in, retiring six of seven batters. As for his adversary on the mound, Walker Buehler struck out the side in the bottom of the first, having left a pair of runners aboard; however, much like James, the Vanderbilt sophomore was on the wrong side of a big inning.
Tommy Edman and Danny Diekroeger opened the frame with a pair of singles, as Edman would come around on a two-bagger from Alex Blandino. Two batters later, Swanson misfired to first on a grounder to second, allowing Hoffpauir to reach base and for both Diekroeger and Blandino to cross the plate. Wayne Taylor capped off the four-run rally with a triple to right, plating Hoffpauir from first.
Bryan Reynolds singled home Norwood for Vanderbilt’s sixth run of the game, only to be countered by Blandino’s sac fly in the bottom half of the frame to put the Cardinal back within a run of the shared lead.
However, after working a pair of quiet innings in the fifth and sixth, Brakeman surrendered a leadoff single to Swanson to open the seventh and was pulled in favor of Chris Castellanos. At this point, everything began to spiral out of control for the Cardinal.
Reynolds cranked a double off the “monster” in left, putting himself and Swanson in scoring position for Conde, who grounded up the middle for an infield single and plated Swanson from third.
A.J. Vanegas was called to the mound for Stanford, but things progressively got worse. Wiel approached the plate and hit a hard grounder to third that was stabbed by Blandino, who threw a strike to the plate that skipped off Brant Whiting’s glove, allowing Reynolds to score. Turner responded with a sac fly to center, plating Conde to extend the Commodores’ lead to four runs.
With Wiel on third after a successful (albeit questionable, as per Blandino’s heated reaction to third base umpire Mike Morris) steal, Norwood ripped one up the middle to plate Wiel and put Vanderbilt into double-digit run territory for the second time in this Nashville Super Regional.
Stanford’s Friday starter John Hochstatter came in and walked Delay, only to be pulled for Tyler Thorne, the fifth pitcher of the inning. Pinch hitting for Ro Coleman, Karl Ellison approached the plate and hit a hard grounder to third that was nicely played by Blandino, who fired over to second for the 5-4-3 inning ending double play.
But Stanford’s struggles would not end there. Swanson led off the eighth with a four-pitch walk, later advancing to third on Reynolds’ single to right. With Conde at the plate, a circus ensued. In attempting a throw-over to first, Thorne’s throw just missed the glove of Diekroeger, allowing Swanson to score and Reynolds to advance to third; however, the throw to third was errant, allowing Reynolds to score on yet another poor throw, this one from Blandino at third.
However, perhaps the key performer of the game was Vanderbilt reliever Hayden Stone, who came into the fourth and slowed the game down. Stone held the Stanford lineup scoreless from the fifth inning on, working a nasty slider option and a changeup that kept hitters honest. Overall, the freshman right-hander worked six innings of one-run ball (unearned) on three hits, fanning eight and surrendering just two free passes.
After surrendering a leadoff single to Diekroeger, Stone retired the next three in order to seal the 12-5 victory and send the Commodores to their second ever trip to Omaha. Vanderbilt will now square off against the Louisville Cardinals in the first round of the College World Series.