JOE BIDDLE: Vanderbilt baseball headed north on a mission

Vanderbilt, Radford

Radford’s baseball team had its backs against the wall as they faced defending national champion Vanderbilt Monday at Hawkins Field.

They had their backs against the left field wall, against the center field wall and against the right field wall.

The Commodores clobbered the No. 2 seed, 21-0, and advanced to the Super Regional at Illinois. It marked the largest shutout in NCAA Tournament history.

Radford pitchers were running for cover as Vanderbilt pounded out 21 runs on 20 hits. Included were four triples and three home runs. Small ball, my eye.

The score was 20-0 in the top of the fifth inning as they sent 15 batters to the plate. If it were a heavyweight fight, it would have been called a TKO.

It was a record setting day for the Commodores as second baseman Tyler Campbell smacked the team’s fourth double of the game in the top of the fifth. It set another NCAA Tournament record as the Vanderbilt bats were sizzling.

Pitchers Walker Buehler and four relievers held Radford to three harmless singles. Buehler had a no-hitter broken up as Radford’s Patrick Marshall and Hunter Hickerson had back-to-back singles in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Radford Coach Joe Raccula found out how Gen. Custer felt at Little Big Horn.

“We made a couple of mistakes early in the game and they made it hurt,’’ Raccula said. “Then the momentum just wasn’t going to be stopped.’’

Tim Corbin empathized with Raccula. He was on the end of similar lop-sided scores as an assistant coach at Clemson.

He was proud of the way his team handled a delicate situation. They could have rubbed it in, but kept playing ball the Corbin way.

“They handled it with class,’’ Corbin said of his team. “They were just a classy group of kids with how they handled themselves in playing the game appropriately and for what it is and keeping the integrity of it. So I’m proud of them for a lot of different reasons.’’

In the final innings, Corbin made several substitutions that allowed players such as shortstop Dansby Swanson, first baseman Zander Wiel and others who played their final game at the Hawk to exit the field to standing ovations. A number of Vanderbilt juniors will be drafted in the first round in the June major league amateur draft.

Corbin hopes they can repeat what last year’s team did and take it all in Omaha. He got emotional when he reflected on those parting players.

“That’s not easy,’’ Corbin said. “That’s the tough part of coaching kids for two or three years. It just seems like the years go by way, way too fast. I wanted to do it for them.’’

The next stop is Champaign, Ill., where Illinois will host one of the Super Regionals.

“I think the positive thing for us is the confidence that we can build on from an explosive offensive performance. We also pitched very well this week and defended very well,’’ Swanson said.

“It’s that time of the year when the intensity gets built up a little more. I think everyone is focused and are going into things the right way.

“You can’t really ask for anything more than that.’’

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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