Tyler Campbell was an afterthought heading into the College World Series. On Saturday night, he was Vanderbilt's hero.
The backup third baseman - thrust into a starting role due to Xavier Turner's suspension - beat out a 2-out, bases-loaded infield single to propel the Commodores to the College World Series Final behind a 4-3 Vandy win in extra innings. The 'Dores will face #3 Virgina for the title.
Vanderbilt struck first, loading the bases in the first inning and scoring a run on John Norwood's RBI groundout. However, the 'Dores left a big scoring opportunity in the ether by leaving the bases loaded, giving Texas an early moral victory. Vandy would add another run in the third when Vince Conde stole third base and came home thanks to a throwing error from Texas catcher Tres Barrera.
Texas battled back in the fourth, finally cracking Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer to load the bases and then tie the game on Kacy Clemens's 2-RBI single. Fulmer would run out of steam an inning later, loading the bases once again before Hayden Stone could save the 'Dores by inducing a clutch inning-ending double play.
Vandy looked to regain their momentum in the fifth when Rhett Wiseman blasted a run-scoring double off the right field wall to put runners on second and third with one out, but it wouldn't last. The 'Dores called an unusual, two-strike safety squeeze for Nolan Rogers that led to a weird strike-em-out-throw-em-out end to what could have been a big inning for Vanderbilt. Texas capitalized on that mistake one batter later, taking advantage of a John Norwood misplay in center to get a leadoff triple and scoring an equalizing run two batters later.
The two teams stayed locked at 3-3 into extra innings as Hayden Stone and Morgan Cooper dueled with sterling relief efforts. It stayed that way until the 10th inning, when the 'Dores started off a two-out rally behind Rhett Wiseman's single. Ro Coleman followed that with a walk, and Vandy loaded the bases when Karl Ellison was hit by the first pitch he saw. Three pitches later, Campbell bounced a grounder into no man's land between the pitcher and shortstop. The sophomore beat out the throw to deliver the game winning run - and send Vanderbilt to a place they've never been before in any major sport.
Vanderbilt will now face Virginia in the best-of-three College World Series Final on Monday. Texas's season is over, but the Longhorns can at least hang their hats on an overachieving run to college baseball's final four. The rest of us - particularly those of us at AoG? Well, we'll be celebrating with a few drinks and several inappropriate toasts for Tyler Campbell.