OMAHA, Neb. — Behind Walker Buehler’s dominance out of the bullpen, Vanderbilt defeated UC Irvine, 6-4, Monday night at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Commodores (48-19) scored three runs in the fifth inning to overcome Tyler Beede‘s shaky start that put them in a 4-2 hole, but then never looked back.
Buehler was unhittable on the mound. The right-hander pitched 5.1 innings and only allowed three baserunners — none via hits. UC Irvine (41-24) had no answer for Buehler’s mid-90s fastball and power breaking ball.
Vanderbilt jumped on starter Elliot Surrey in the first inning, giving UC Irvine a taste of its own medicine, employing the small ball technique that has carried the ‘Eaters through this postseason.
A sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position for Zander Wiel, who singled through the right side with a nice piece of inside-out hitting. Xavier Turner laid down a squeeze bunt and Bryan Reynolds‘ great headfirst slide avoided the tag to put Vanderbilt up 2-0.
After an impeccable first inning, Tyler Beede lost his command and was roughed up in the second frame. After striking out the first batter, Beede hit a batter and allowed back-to-back singles. Kris Paulino‘s liner through the right side got Irvine on the board.
A squeeze bunt by Adam Alcantara evened the score, 2-2. Later in the frame, Taylor Sparks continued his torrid postseason singling up the middle to bring home two runs.
Surrey put together back-to-back 1-2-3 innings after getting the lead. The sophomore lefty looked to be in control, but things fell apart for him in the fifth inning.
Dansby Swanson, who reached base four times and scored twice, led off with one of his two doubles and came around to score on a Vince Conde groundout. Zander Wiel tied the game up with an RBI double to left field and two free passes loaded the bases for John Norwood.
Evan Brock came on in relief, but couldn’t keep Vanderbilt off the board. Norwood hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to give the Commodores the lead. They tacked on a run in the seventh inning when Norwood got his next at bat. He singled in Rhett Wiseman to make it 6-4.
5-4…6-4? It really didn’t matter because once Buehler took over on the mound, the game completely shifted.
“There was a momentum change,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “[He] pounded the strike zone from the minute he got in there until the minute the game finished. Very impressive. Very mature approach to the game.”
Buehler struck out seven and allowed only two balls out of the infield — a flyball to start his outing and a flyball to end the game.
“We got out everythinged,” UC Irvine head coach Mike Gillespie said. “Particularly once Buehler came into the game, he pitched like a first rounder waiting to happen.”
The sophomore’s efforts on the mound kept the Vanderbilt bats warm as they rarely spent more than a couple minutes in the field.
“I think the pitching staff is more of the table setter. The way they pitch enables us to get some momentum and fluidity throughout the game,” Vanderbilt second baseman Dansby Swanson said. “When they have good pace and their in the zone, your defense picks up because you’re in the rhythm of the game. Then you can go back in and score because you weren’t out there very long.”
Walker Buehler picked up the win to improve to 12-2 on the season. Elliot Surrey (8-5) took the loss, allowing five runs in 4.1 innings.
UC Irvine now faces a rematch with Texas on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CST. Vanderbilt awaits the winner of that game on Friday at 2 p.m. The Commodores will have to be beaten twice for Irvine or Texas to advance to the championship series.
Here’s CBD photographer Shotgun Spratling‘s top shots from the 2014 College World Series Monday afternoon action at TD Ameritrade Park:
Be sure to check out our other coverage from Virginia’s walk-off victory: