By David Dawson
NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt clinched another trip to the Super Regionals on Monday — and this time, the Commodores did it with an enormous amount of force and flare.
Putting together one of the most explosive offensive performances in NCAA Tournament history, the top-seeded Commodores blasted No. 2-seeded Radford, 21-0, to complete an undefeated run through the Nashville Regional and advance to the Super Regionals for the third straight year and the fifth time in the past six seasons. It is the sixth Regional title in the program’s history, all coming under head coach Tim Corbin.
Vanderbilt, the defending national champs, will travel to Illinois next week for the Super Regionals — with dates and times still be announced — after sweeping through the Nashville Regional at Hawkins Field for the second straight year.
The Commodores set a long list of school records during the rout of Radford (45-16), and also tied the NCAA record for biggest margin of victory in a shutout in NCAA Tournament history. Vanderbilt led the game 10-0 at the end of the fourth inning, and then put together a 10-run fifth inning — sending 15 batters to the plate — to extend the lead to 20-0. By game’s end, every Commodore in the starting lineup had at least one hit, and eight of the nine starters scored at least two runs.
Zander Wiel went 4-for-6 with a homer, a triple and six RBIs for the Commodores. Wiel’s homer, his 13th of the season, was a three-run shot that helped fuel Vanderbilt’s 10-run fifth inning. Bryan Reynolds added a two-run shot during the frame, and finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Four Vanderbilt pitchers — Walker Buehler, John Kilichowski, Tyler Ferguson and Jordan Sheffield — combined on a three-hit shutout, finishing with 13 strikeouts. The Vanderbilt staff registered 39 strikeouts in the three Regional games.
Leadoff hitter Ro Coleman had four hits and scored four runs Monday to cap off his impressive Regional run, as he reached base 13 times in the three games.
Rhett Wiseman hit a two-run homer in the second inning — his 14th of the season — and finished with three RBIs for the Commodores, who scored three runs in the first inning, two in the second and four in the third. Jason Delay finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBIs.
Dansby Swanson went 1-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI and was named the Regional’s MVP. The contest was likely the final home game for Swanson, who is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. He and several of his teammates were given standing ovations when they were replaced by late-inning substitutions.
If this was indeed Swanson’s swan song, he certainly went out with a bang during the past four days. He provided two of the Regional’s most memorable moments when he hit a tie-breaking homer in the top of the ninth inning of Saturday’s win over Indiana, then delivered an amazing defensive play in the bottom of the inning that was included in highlight packages all over the nation.
Swanson was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Wiseman, Reynolds, Kendall, Coleman and Carson Fulmer, who pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out 11 in Friday’s opener against Lipscomb.
Buehler (4-2) worked five innings of two-hit ball on Monday, finishing with seven strikeouts, and Kilichowski followed with two scoreless innings. Ferguson and Sheffield then went one inning each, with both pitchers striking out the side.
Although Vanderbilt’s offense didn’t need any help, the Commodores benefitted from six Radford errors and seven hit-by-pitches.
Fulmer, the Vanderbilt ace, was inserted into the game as the left fielder in the seventh inning. He was replaced after the first out of the inning was recorded, and was given a rousing ovation as he left the field. There were plenty of similar emotional moments for the Commodores, especially for the players who were possibly playing their Hawkins Field finale.
Vanderbilt set school NCAA Tournament single-game records for hits (21), RBIs (20), triples (4) and hit by pitch (7). Other school NCAA Tournament single-game records included Wiel’s six RBIs, Coleman’s four runs and Tyler Campbell’s seven at-bats ties. Vanderbilt’s four triples tied for the most in program history in single game.
MVP –Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt)
C – Josh Reavis (Radford)
1B – Zander Wiel* (Vanderbilt)
2B – Casey Rodrigue* (Indiana)
3B – Brian Wilhite* (Indiana)
SS – Dansby Swanson* (Vanderbilt)
OF – Rhett Wiseman* (Vanderbilt)
OF – Bryan Reynolds* (Vanderbilt)
OF – Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt)
DH – Ro Coleman* (Vanderbilt)
P – Carson Fulmer* (Vanderbilt)
P – Kyle Hart (Indiana)