NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt Commodores weren’t quite sure what to think of themselves a few weeks ago.
They entered the NCAA tournament having lost six of their last 11, but thanks to some fresh faces and some big wins, Vanderbilt is riding high and headed to the College World Series.
Vince Conde and John Norwood had three hits and two RBIs each and Vanderbilt combined for six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to beat Stanford 12-5 Sunday to advance to Omaha for the second time in program history and first since 2011.
“It was amazing,” said freshman Hayden Stone, who pitched six innings of three-hit baseball to close the game and earn the win. “Just the opportunity to be out there in that certain time. Just daydreamed about it all the time. I’m glad I got to accomplish that.”
Corbin credited Bryan Reynolds, a freshman all-American, and fellow freshmen Stone and catcher Jason Delay for their vital roles Sunday.
“You look at three of the key components today: freshmen,” he said. “Those kids do not act like freshman. They haven’t been here very long, but they fit in nicely.”
Reynolds finished 8-for-12 in the three-game series.
Corbin, who is in his 12th year guiding the Commodores, said his players have developed into a team as of late.
“I think what’s happened with the kids is that they developed an identity,” he said. “As I told them before the SEC tournament, it’s never too late, it’s never too late to develop into a team and not because we’re winning, but I think that the personalities are starting to grow together a little bit more than the beginning of the year and the middle of the year.”
Stone finished with eight strikeouts, two walks and was charged with one unearned run. He entered in the fourth after Vanderbilt starter Walker Buehler battled through the bottom of the third, giving up four runs. The Commodores had opened with five runs off six hits in the first, but Buehler’s struggles allowed the Cardinal to pull within 5-4.
“They have great arms and they throw a lot of strikes and it’s tough,” Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. “What you get off them, you’ve got to earn it. You don’t usually get a lot of them.”
The teams traded runs in the fourth, but the Commodores pulled away in the seventh. Dansby Swanson led off with a single and the Commodores scored four runs to send Stanford scrambling. The Cardinal used five pitchers in the inning before Brett Michael Doran snagged a grounder from pinch-hitter Karl Ellison for a double play, but the damage had been done and Vanderbilt led 10-5.
After Stone worked through the side, Vanderbilt tacked on two more runs in the eighth on what looked like a wild Little League play when Swanson scored on an errant pickoff attempt. Reynolds kept chugging from first after the bad throw and slid into third, but the ball popped loose toward the Stanford dugout — so Reynolds hustled home to score after another Cardinal throwing error by third baseman Alex Blandino.
“That’s a do-or-die thing,” Marquess said. “That got away from us in that one inning where we just threw the ball around.”
Reynolds, Conde and Norwood all had three hits in the win in front of the third straight sellout crowd in Nashville.
Stanford was led by Danny Diekroeger’s three singles.