Vanderbilt is headed back to the College World Series.
The Commodores used a pair of big innings to fend off a pesky Stanford team and win the Nashville Super Regional with a 12-5 victory on Sunday. The Cardinal were able to chase Vandy starter Walker Buehler early, but Vandy's opportunistic batting was too much for the visiting underdogs to handle. Vanderbilt took advantage of Stanford's mistakes late in the game to turn a tight contest into a decisive win in front of a raucous home crowd.
The victory sent the 'Dores and head coach Tim Corbin to their first College World Series since 2011. Next week's appearance will be the team's second trip to Omaha in school history. In a field that has been sapped by upsets, Corbin's team will be one of the favorites to take home the big trophy and bring the university its second NCAA championship.
Vanderbilt got off to a hot start for the second time in three Super Regional games, scoring five runs in the opening inning to give the home crowd something to get hyped about. The 'Dores got aggressive on the basepaths, stealing three bases and chasing Stanford starter Logan James after just two-thirds of an inning. Just like on Friday, however, the Cardinal weren't willing to let Vandy run away with an uncontested lead.
The Pac-12 team stormed back with four runs in the third to make Tim Corbin uncomfortable. Three straight hits and a costly error by second baseman Dansby Swanson made it a 5-4 game and ended Walker Buehler's day early. Both teams would add runs in the fourth as the Hawkins Field turned into a pressure cooker on a beautiful and breezy Nashville day.
Stanford was primed to take the lead after they put runners on base in each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, but they failed to string run-scoring hits together against Vandy freshman reliever Hayden Stone. Stone's clutch pitching came up huge for the 'Dores and held the Cardinal back just long enough to give his team a chance to blow the game open in the seventh. He finished the day with a stellar six innings, eight strikeouts, and just five baserunners allowed. Stanford's bullpen, by comparison, burned through eight pitchers in the defeat.
Vandy's bats and baserunners turned up big behind his inspiring effort. The 'Dores extended their lead with four runs in the seventh thanks to some clutch hitting by Vince Conde and John Norwood, but the team was also aided by a costly error that suggested the Cardinal couldn't rise to meet the pressure provided by the crowd at the Hawk. Those jitters returned in the eighth, where back-to-back errors led to a pair of Commodore runs and a commanding 12-5 lead for the boys in black and gold.
That was enough to send the Commodores back to Omaha, even after an uneven season in Nashville.