NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt approached the NCAA tournament like it was a new season after a rare early exit from the Southeastern Conference tournament. Now the Commodores need just two more wins for only Vanderbilt's second trip to the College World Series and first since 2011.
And the Commodores swept Stanford, the team standing in their way, early this season.
"Obviously, right when the season starts in January and February, it's hard to look forward to Omaha," said Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede, who will start Friday. "But that's certainly the reason why you play the game is to get to that last day of college baseball and be playing and to be two wins away, it's sort of like, 'OK, we're here, but we need to finish business.'"
The Commodores had played for the SEC title seven of the past 10 years. Well rested, they needed only three wins to reach their fourth Super Regional in five years. Vanderbilt (44-18) had three games of strong pitching and freshman Ro Coleman's walk off single for a 3-2 win over Oregon put the Commodores into their fourth Super Regional in five years.
Stanford advanced to this best-of-three game series on a walk off two-run homer by freshman Tommy Edman against Indiana on Monday.
The Cardinal (34-24) are making their second trip to Nashville this year, and that three-game trip in late February and early March ended in a Vanderbilt sweep with the Commodores outscoring the Cardinal 13-4 over three games. Coach Mark Marquess started three freshmen in that early series and said the Cardinal weren't hitting either then.
Freshman pitcher Cal Quantrill said Stanford was a completely different team then.
"I'm sure that they've made some changes, too, but I think this will be a great opportunity to see how big of a difference a couple months has made," Quantrill said. "We've been really jelling as a group lately. We're getting runs from everywhere in the lineup. Our team's changed a lot, we've gotten a lot better and we're ready to go."
Here are five things to know about the Super Regional at Vanderbilt:
HARD HITTING vs. SUPER PITCHING: Stanford hit nine homers over five regional games after having 26 previously for the season. The Commodores have given up just one home run in their last eight games. Beede, Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler combined to allow just four runs on 13 hits with 27 strikeouts while pitching 25 of Vanderbilt's 27 innings through three regional wins last week.
DOUBLE DUTY: Beede, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander, could be picked in the first round of Thursday night's Major League Baseball draft. The junior, the only first round pick three years ago not to sign, said he was excited for the draft but it is "something that I'll have to set aside immediately." Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin added, "The timing stinks." Stanford Coach Mark Marquess is holding Cal Quantrill for Saturday's game, giving him another day of rest. The freshman also has a physics final before taking the mound. So left-hander John Hochstatter (10-2) will start Friday against Beede.
TWO-SPORT DRIVE: Stanford outfielder Zach Hoffpauir is one of four athletes in the Pac-12 to play both baseball and football. The sophomore went 3-for-5 with a homer and triple in Sunday's 10-7 win over Indiana. This fall, he is vying for a starting safety position on the Cardinal football team.
SUPER REDEMPTION: Vanderbilt lost to Louisville in two games last season to miss out on a trip to Omaha. The Cardinal have lost their last four Super Regional games with their last win in 2008. They were swept by Florida in their last Super Regional in 2012.
REPRESENTING: The SEC had a record-setting 10 teams qualify for the NCAA tournament this season, but now only Vanderbilt and Mississippi remain. There has been at least one SEC team in every College World Series since 1992. Stanford is the lone Pac-12 team still alive.