Championship teams typically have one performance that makes you say “this team is for real.”
Every championship team also has one player that does something to launch himself into baseball lore on the way to a title.
The Vanderbilt Commodores might have had both of those moments on Sunday night. On the back of three home runs and 10 RBIs from Connor Kaiser, Vanderbilt punched its ticket to the NCAA Super Regionals with a 19-6 win over Clemson.
The team combined for a whopping nine home runs in the game, shattering a school record set back in 1991. This is Vanderbilt’s eighth Super Regionals appearance under head coach Tim Corbin.
The Vanderbilt bats awoke early in this one when Stephen Scott unloaded on a pitch and sent the ball deep over the right field fence to give his team a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. It was Scott’s seventh home run in 11 games.
The Commodores opened up the game in the third inning. Austin Martin got on base with a single, followed by a Stephen Scott walk. A wild pitch moved them over before Connor Kaiser hit a moon shot to left field to make the score 4-0. Before the celebration could finish, Philip Clarke launched one over the left field fence to go back-to-back. Vanderbilt would continue to threaten but the inning would end with the Commodores leading 5-0.
Clemson got back into the game with a two-run homer in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to three runs. However, the response from Vanderbilt was swift. Clarked launched his second home run of the game to deep right center to make it a 6-2 ball game.
In the fifth inning, Clemson jumped on Hickman as his pitch count got into the sixties. After putting the first two runners on base, Hickman worked a strikeout but then gave up another base hit to load the bases with one out. A hit-by-pitch drove in a run for Clemson to make it 6-3 with their power gauntlet at the plate. Hickman settled in to work a strikeout and long flyout to end the inning with minimal damage.
Vanderbilt continued to power through in the following inning. Harrison Ray, who came in to pinch hit for Jayson Gonzalez, got home on the backs of an Austin Martin double in the gap. The Commodores loaded the bases before Kaiser brought them all home with a monstrous grand slam into the right field bleachers to make it 11-3 in favor of the boys in Black and Gold.
Clemson got back on the board with a two-run homer in the bottom half of the sixth, which ended Hickman’s outing. Maddux Conger came on to finish off the inning for Vanderbilt.
That led into more hot hitting for Vanderbilt in the seventh. Scott unloaded on another pitch to deep right center to add another homer to his stat sheet. Then, Kaiser cranked his third homer of the game, and the team’s seventh of the game, to make the score 14-5.
They would not stop coming with the homers in the top of the eighth. Julian Infante and Harrison Ray went back-to-back to pad the lead even more. A Kaiser RBI single made it 17-6 and gave him his 10th RBI of the game.
Now, Vanderbilt will await either Oklahoma or Mississippi State in the Super Regionals. The Commodores could possibly host the Super Regional at Hawkins Field.