OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Vanderbilt’s Rhett Wiseman is happy to be back in the College World Series finals — perhaps more for teammates who weren’t on the roster last year than for himself.
Upon returning to the clubhouse after Friday’s 7-1 win over TCU, he said, he relished the reaction of those players who’ll experience the finals for the first time Monday when the best-of-three series starts against Virginia.
“Especially the guys that were on the team that were redshirted, that’s where I get even kind of choked up talking about it, just for them to be able to get back here after hearing about what it was like last year,” Wiseman said. “Sometimes you’re around these guys and you don’t even want to really talk about it because you feel like they’ve missed out on it. Just to get back here for those guys is what’s so special.”
Vanderbilt’s second straight run to the finals wasn’t quite as adventurous as the first.
Last year, the Commodores faced elimination after a 4-0 loss to Texas. They came back the next night to beat the Longhorns 4-3 on unlikely hero Tyler Campbell’s walk-off bases-loaded infield single in the 10th inning. They went on to beat Virginia in a three-game CWS finals.
This year, Vandy needed a walk-off homer to beat Cal State Fullerton 4-3 in its CWS opener and beat TCU 1-0 in its second game before dominating the Horned Frogs on Friday.
NO COMPLAINTS: TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle left Omaha with a more favorable impression of the college game.
Last year, after his team was eliminated, he said it was a “travesty” what had happened to the game. He complained that bat standards hamstrung offenses, all but eliminated the threat of home runs and allowed outfielders to play shallow, so moving from first to third on basehits was difficult. The reduction of offense was magnified in the cavernous TD Ameritrade Park, where the prevailing summer winds blow in.
There have been 14 home runs hit in 13 games compared with three in 16 last year, and per-team scoring was up from 3.1 runs a game to 4.6. The bump is a result of the flat-seam ball, which replaced the more wind-resistant raised-seam ball.
“This park, the wind is still going to play a factor,” Schlossnagle said. “But there are plenty of parks in the country where that’s what makes baseball great. It’s not a basketball gym where everything is the same. It’s unique. So I think the ball seems to have definitely helped.
“I still think we can take one more step and play with the minor league baseball, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.”
The minor-league ball also has flat seams, but the core is harder.
A HOME RUN A DAY: Vanderbilt has hit a home run in four straight CWS games dating to last year. The biggest was John Norwood’s tiebreaking homer against Virginia in last year’s national championship game. Then, there was Jeren Kendall’s walk-off homer against Cal State Fullerton last Monday, Zander Wiel’s go-ahead homer against TCU on Tuesday and Wiseman’s two-run blast against TCU on Friday.
SHORT HOPS: Saturday’s Florida-Virginia game marked a record seventh time schools from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference were matched in the same CWS. … Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler retired 10 straight batters against TCU on Friday, the most in a row to start a CWS game since UCLA’s Adam Plutko set down the same number against Mississippi State in 2013. … TCU’s Cody Jones’ streak of reach base ended at 37 games Friday, and he went 0 for his last 22 at the CWS the last two years.