Another super regional, another sweep by a team in the Southeastern Conference. This time, the Vanderbilt Commodores defeated the Fighting Illinois in Champaign on the back of Dansby Swanson -- the newly-minted 1st pick in the MLB draft to the Arizona Diamondbacks -- as he hit a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth inning and scored the go-ahead run following a double in the sixth. Facing Illinois starter Tyler Jay, the 'Dores battled to advance to Omaha for the second straight season.
Illinois struck first in the game, played Monday due to untimely weather on Sunday as fans were evacuated due to storms. Thanks to a sacrifice fly by Casey Fletcher in the first half inning with the bases loaded, Illinois grabbed a 1-0 lead. But, in the bottom of the second, Vanderbilt first baseman Zander Wiel hit a solo shot, the third home run hit off Jay in his entire Illinois career and the first he'd given up this season.
On the same day the MLB Draft would take place, the majority of the talk pregame was: where would the likes of Swanson, Jay and even Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler go? In attendance, coincidentally, was David Price, the former Vanderbilt Commodore and first pick in the 2007 MLB draft.
Pregame, during the game on ESPN2, and postgame, Price endorsed Swanson to be the first pick saying: "Dansby should to be the first pick in the draft for a reason. I’ve got my money on Dansby." He also stated his comments to the aforementioned guys: "(I didn’t tell them anything) coming into the game (on the draft), but I just told them to consume themselves of Vanderbilt baseball," Price said. "I was in a similar position to them in 2007."
The home run in the fourth by Swanson only cemented Price's ideal as it was only the second given up by Jay all year, and, it came at a time the Commodores needed most.
After taking the 3-2 lead in the sixth, the game turned into a waiting game for Swanson and Vanderbilt, as they tried to fend off Illinois pitch by pitch.
And, in the seventh, a suicide squeeze play by the 'Dores scored Karl Ellison, sealing a 4-2 victory.
For Swanson, the No. 1 pick was the cherry-on-top to a day and a weekend that totaled a culmination of hard work by Tim Corbin's squad. And for the SEC, to see Alex Bregman -- the LSU Tigers shortstop -- picked second, the league sheds a smile on a night that proves the conference as the best in baseball.