Jun 20, 2015 12:30 AM
Defending champ Vanderbilt beats TCU 7-1, returns to finals
The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) A couple of stars who led Vanderbilt to its first national championship put the Commodores in position to play for another one.
The defending champions returned to the College World Series finals after Walker Buehler and John Kilichowski combined on a five-hitter and Rhett Wiseman homered in a 7-1 victory over TCU on Friday night.
The Commodores (50-19) open the best-of-three title series Monday against the winner of Saturday's game between Virginia, last year's runner up, and Florida.
"They have a unique way of just keeping their eye on target and never getting off balance," Vandy coach Tim Corbin said. "I've said all along I feel like a parent that's in the back seat letting your kids drive the car because you trust them. And when you trust a group of kids, it's the greatest feeling a parent can have. And that's how I feel."
Buehler (5-2) allowed four hits and a run and struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings. His work during last year's title run led to his being the Los Angeles Dodgers' first-round draft pick this year, and Corbin had faith he could do the job Friday even though he hadn't pitched since June 1.
"I thought he was right on point," Corbin said. "You never know what's going to happen when a guy has that much time off. He filled the strike zone early and often. Six of the most impressive innings I've seen him pitch."
Wiseman, named to the CWS all-tournament team last year, got off to a painful start. As he squared to bunt in the first, he was hit in the neck by a pitch from Tyler Alexander. Corbin and an athletic trainer checked him over, and he had a welt on the right side of his neck as he took first base. Wiseman singled in his next at-bat and hit a two-run homer, his 15th, in the fourth.
He said there was no question that he would stay in the game after getting plunked.
"College World Series, baby. You'd have to kill me to take me out of the game, especially that early in the game," Wiseman said. "It's easy to go out there following Walker's lead on the mound. He brings so much energy to the team. By the third inning, I had forgotten about the neck."
Alexander (6-3) was touched for three runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings for the Horned Frogs (51-15).
With his fastball clocked in the mid-90s early, Buehler retired the first 10 batters. He gave up back-to-back singles, then set down six of the next seven.
"He was attacking with all his pitches and throwing them for strikes," TCU's Keaton Jones said. "It wasn't like he was throwing it down the middle. He was hitting his spots in and out and throwing his breaking ball on the corners as well."
Buehler had gone beyond the seventh inning only once in his first 14 starts this season, and that's when he began to labor. He walked Connor Wanhanen leading off the seventh, and Wanhanen scored on a sacrifice fly for the Horned Frogs' only run. Kilichowski finished, giving up one hit in 2 1/3 innings.
Bryan Reynolds started his three-hit night with an RBI single, and he drove in another run to put the Commodores up 3-0 in the fourth. Reynolds later tripled and scored and is batting .500 in the CWS (6 for 12).
TCU came to Omaha with a 2.38 ERA that ranked second nationally, and the Frogs allowed just eight runs in their first 27 innings at the CWS. They gave up seven runs, six earned, in the first five innings Friday.
The game was a continuation of the Frogs' offensive struggles against the Commodores. They managed five singles against Philip Pfeifer and Kyle Wright in a 1-0 loss to Vanderbilt on Tuesday and batted .159 (10 of 63) in the two games.
"It's never about the best team. It's the team that plays the best. And I think Vanderbilt has a heck of a team and they're certainly playing as good as anybody in the country right now," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "But we felt like we were good enough to play with them. We just didn't play as well as they did today."