The Vanderbilt Commo-dores are the 2014 NCAA Division I Baseball National Champions after defeating Virginia 3-2 in the deciding game #3 of the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. It is the first national championship for the university in a men’s or SEC-sanctioned sport, the second overall joining 2007 Women’s Bowling.
The moment occurred at 10:55 pm on June 25 as Adam Ravenelle struck out Daniel Pinero. The dog pile ensued, the fireworks went off, black and gold confetti rained down, and the weight of 128 years of intercollegiate athletics without the big prize was forever lifted.
This team was not expected to make this run. Everything was set up for the best team ever in 2015, it was said. When the Commodores lost 2-of-3 to Arkansas and was 8-10 in the SEC, certainly nothing of this nature was seen as possible. When Vanderbilt suffered their earliest exit from the SEC Tournament in years and played their way out of a national seed, this sort of run never seemed possible.
Vandy hosted a regional to begin NCAA play, swept it beating Xavier and then Oregon twice as Ro Coleman delivered the walk-off hit to eliminate the Ducks. Elsewhere, #4-seed Indiana fell victim to a walk-off home run to lose their regional to Stanford, and Vanderbilt got to stay home. After their own walk-off loss in game #2, the Commodores scored five in the 1st and behind stellar relief from Hayden Stone, rolled to a 12-5 game #3 win over Stanford to advance to Omaha.
It then became clear that no seeds survived the first two rounds on Vanderbilt’s side of the bracket. The opportunity was there.
Vanderbilt defeated nemesis Louisville to open the CWS, then UC-Irvine, before unexpected adversity. Starting third baseman Xavier Turner was suspended for the rest of the season due to a NCAA violation. Upon a meeting with team leaders, Tyler Campbell was inserted at third base. Though Vandy lost to Texas that day, Campbell had two hits and played sterling defense. In the deciding game the following night, he had a walk-off infield hit in the 10th to lift VU past Texas 4-3 to set up the series with Virginia.
Game #1 was a wild affair, literally. After setting down the first seven hitters of the night, Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby lost it. Capped by Campbell’s three-run double, Vanderbilt scored nine in the third inning on only three hits, helped by five walks and an error. Virginia’s furious rally came up one run short as VU won 9-8.
Game #2 belonged to the Cavaliers behind a complete game from Brandon Waddell. UVA won 7-2.
The decider was a tense affair, with the night air broken through on a line drive home run over the left field wall into the Virginia bullpen by John Norwood off all-American closer Nick Howard. It was only the third home run total in the 16 games of this year’s College World Series, and it gave Vandy a 3-2 lead.
This game also featured true high wire acts from Stone and Ravenelle on the mound in the 6th and 8th innings respectively as Virginia left the bases loaded each time.
It simply was written in the stars for the Star V. Dansby Swanson was named CWS Most Outstanding Player, and this Vanderbilt team had achieved something few thought they could just now.
But their belief never wavered. It was this team that claimed the ultimate prize, making the dreams of so many come true.