NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The way Bryan Reynolds and his fellow freshmen are playing is a major reason why Vanderbilt is headed back to the College World Series for the first time since 2011.
Reynolds said he got lucky when he made a diving catch against Stanford that made national highlight shows and had Tampa Bay pitcher David Price tweeting about defense.
But the Commodores' return to the CWS is more than mere chance.
Reynolds is Vanderbilt's top slugger in this NCAA tournament, and Hayden Stone has a 0.00 ERA working with catcher Jason Delay — both freshmen. Another freshman, Ro Coleman, drove in the winning run in the regional with a pinch-hit, walk-off single.
Junior pitcher Tyler Beede said Tuesday that they've been watching Reynolds, Delay, Stone and the other freshmen playing like this all season.
"So it's nothing that's kind of too surprising to us, but obviously on a bigger stage for freshmen to play like that is certainly great to see," Beede said. "Those guys probably feel like sophomores now."
Reynolds from Brentwood, Tennessee, has been helping lead the Commodores at the plate and in the field. A .343 batter for the whole season, he has upped his production in the NCAA tournament. Now he has a .520 batting average, a .640 slugging percentage and a team-best eight RBI. He went 8-for-12 at the plate in the three-game series against Stanford.
In the field, he has 10 putouts, and his diving catch to rob Stanford's Brant Whiting in the seventh inning was his best highlight. Reynolds said he thought he was going to scoop the ball off a bounce and got lucky when it stayed in the air. He can't recall ever making a play like that in his career.
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