Vandy, Stanford heading to CWS after super regional sweeps

Sports

Vanderbilt players celebrate with fans after beating East Carolina in an NCAA college baseball super regional game Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 4-1 to sweep the three-game series and advance to the College World Series. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Reigning national champion Vanderbilt and Stanford swept their NCAA super regionals Saturday and became the first teams to lock up spots in the College World Series.

Jack Leiter gave Vanderbilt another stellar pitching performance in a 4-1 win over East Carolina to send the Commodores to the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska, for the fifth time since 2011.

Stanford will be in the CWS for the first time since 2008 after Alex Williams pitched a two-hitter and Brock Jones homered three times in a 9-0 win at Texas Tech.

North Carolina State bounced back from a 21-2 loss Friday to beat No. 1 national seed Arkansas 6-5 and even its best-of-three series, and Mississippi State opened its super regional against Notre Dame with a 9-8 win.

No. 2 Texas posted a 4-3 walk-off victory against South Florida, No. 3 Tennessee defeated LSU 4-2 in an all-SEC super regional and Dallas Baptist moved within a win of its first CWS appearance after beating Virginia 6-5.

No. 12 Mississippi avoided elimination and tied its series with No. 5 Arizona by cruising to a 12-3 victory.

Leiter, who along with Kumar Rocker forms the most vaunted 1-2 pitching tandem in the country, went seven innings and limited East Carolina (44-17) to a single and Josh Moylan’s homer.

Rocker and Leiter combined for 21 strikes and allowed one run on five hits and six walks in 14 1/3 innings for Vandy (45-15) in the super regional.

“This is why you come to Vanderbilt, for moments like this,” said Leiter, son of retired longtime major league pitcher Al Leiter. “The season would have felt incomplete if we hadn’t made it this far.”

Williams, like Branden Beck did on Friday, handcuffed one of the nation’s top offensive teams in Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had a total of three runs and nine hits in the two games. Williams struck out 10 and walked one in his first complete game of the season and second of his career.

Jones homered in the first inning, hit a grand slam in the sixth and went deep again in the eighth. Tommy Troy also homered for the Cardinal.

“I think we’re going to shock the world again,” Jones said. “We’re not satisfied. We didn’t get here just to get to a super and just to get to Omaha. We’re trying to go for the whole thing.”

Stanford (38-15), the No. 9 national seed, embraced the underdog role for its series at No. 8 Texas Tech (39-17), which had hosted and won all four of its previous super regionals.

The Cardinal were just 5-11 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and picked fifth in the Pac-12 in the preseason. It took until mid-April for them to break into the top 20 of the polls. They swept each of their regular-season series.

“Everybody was waiting for us to hit midnight and maybe not be as good as we were playing,” coach David Esquer said, “and it just never happened.”

NC State (34-18) erased a 2-1 deficit in the fourth inning against Arkansas (50-12) with Jose Torres, Luca Tresh and Vojtech Mensik each hitting solo homers in a span of four batters. Sam Highfill and Evan Justice combined to limit the Razorbacks to four hits, with Justice getting a strikeout to end the seventh with the tying run on third base.

Logan Tanner hit the tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning and Landon Sims pitched two perfect innings for his 10th save for Mississippi State (44-15) . Notre Dame (33-12), the top fielding team in the nation, committed four errors.

Texas (46-15) got past upstart South Florida when Silas Ardoin reached on an error and scored from first on Eric Kennedy’s fly that got over center fielder Roberto Pena’s head. The Bulls (31-29) had tied it at 3 in the top of the ninth when Daniel Cantu homered and, with the Bulls down to their last strike, Drew Brutcher hit a two-run homer just inside the right foul pole.

Chad Dallas struck out a career-high 12 and Tennessee (49-16) scratched out three runs in the sixth inning to take the lead against LSU (38-24). With one more win, the Vols will go to the CWS for the first time since 2005 and send Tigers coach Paul Mainieri into retirement.

Jacob Gonzalez hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first to open the scoring and added a two-run double in a six-run second for Mississippi (45-21). Peyton Chatagnier also homered for the Rebels.

Doug Nikhazy (12-2) gave up two runs and six hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings to beat Arizona (44-16). Nikhazy’s 12 wins are a single-season program record, and his 142 strikeouts are four shy of Lance Lynn’s school mark.

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More AP NCAA baseball tournament coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-world-series

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