For the 22nd straight year, the SEC is sending at least one team to the College World Series, thanks to Vanderbilt's 12-5 beatdown of Stanford in the final game of the Nashville Super Regional. And the Commodores might have gotten rid of one of the issues that has haunted them throughout the series.
Because for what seemed like first time in the super regional, Vanderbilt found a way to step on Stanford's throat when the Cardinal were down. Sure, Stanford came back from allowing five runs in the first inning to close to within a run after a four-run third. And when the Commodores added another run in the fourth inning, the Cardinal followed suit in their half of the frame.
But then, in the seventh and eighth, Vanderbilt put six runs on the board -- helped out more than a little by Stanford's own mistakes. One play in the eighth inning was memorable: With runners on first and third, Stanford pitcher Tyler Thorne tried to pick off Bryan Reynolds at first; the resulting error allowed Dansby Swanson to score from third. Reynolds turned at second and headed for third, with right fielder Zach Hoffpauir throwing the ball toward third -- but not close enough to make the play, with the ball skipping into foul territory. Reynolds decided to press his luck again and head for home, at which point third baseman Alex Blandino tried to throw Reynolds out and also missed. Two runs off one attempted pick-off.
Even as Stanford was contributing to the Vanderbilt runs, though, Hayden Stone was holding down the Cardinal offense, which didn't score after the fourth inning. In fact, only two of Stanford's 10 hits came after the fourth inning, and Stone struck out eight after entering to start the fourth. By the time Stanford's half of the eighth inning began, Vanderbilt fans were finally able to breathe easily.
Vanderbilt heads to the College World Series for the second time in its history. The Commodores' first opponent will be Louisville.