OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Spencer Jones scored on Brendan Beck’s wild pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to keep Vanderbilt alive in the College World Series with a 6-5 victory over Stanford.
The reigning national champion Commodores were down to their last strike before winning in shocking fashion against the Pac-12 pitcher of the year, who had been dominant since beginning his rare relief appearance in the seventh.
Vanderbilt (47-16), which avoided its shortest stay at the CWS in its five appearances, all since 2011, will play North Carolina State in the Bracket 1 final. The Commodores would have to beat the Wolfpack on Friday and again Saturday to reach the best-of-three championship series a second straight time.
Vandy won the national title in 2019. There was no CWS last year because of the pandemic.
The Commodores were uncharacteristically sloppy against Stanford (39-17) until the middle innings and pulled within 5-4 after being down 4-0.
Vanderbilt’s first five batters struck out against Beck (9-3), and no one reached base until Javier Vaz walked on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth.
At that point, it was Stanford that got sloppy. Jones hit a pinch infield single, and Vaz ended up on third on shortstop Adam Crampton’s off-target throw to first.
Enrique Bradfield Jr. singled to right to bring home Vaz and send Jones to third.
On a 1-0 count to Carter Young, Beck’s pitch went high and glanced off catcher Kody Huff’s glove and went to the back wall, allowing Jones to come home as the Vanderbilt dugout emptied in celebration.
Stanford left the bases loaded in the fourth and eighth innings and stranded a total of 11 runners.
Vanderbilt came to Omaha 1-13 when trailing after six innings. The Commodores have been in that situation in both of their wins in Omaha, having come back from a 5-3 deficit to win 7-6 in 12 innings against Arizona on Saturday.
The way the Commodores started Wednesday, this win seemed improbable.
Three of Stanford’s first four runs were unearned, with Vanderbilt committing three errors for the second time in three CWS games after having three errors in only two of their previous 60.
Errors by third baseman Jayson Gonzalez and second baseman Parker Noland led to Stanford’s first run. After Brock Jones’ homer in the third, the Cardinal went up 4-0 in the fourth after Young’s error at short loaded the bases and reliever Nick Maldonado walked in a run before Tim Tawa’s RBI infield single.
The Commodores managed only one more hit off left-hander Quinn Mathews launched a 400-plus-feet homer to left to cut Stanford’s lead to 4-2 in the fourth, and RBI singles by pinch-hitter Tate Kolwyck and Noland got Vandy within a run in the sixth.
Luke Murphy (4-1) worked the last 1 1/3 innings to earn the win.