Tyler Campbell never expected to even play in the College World Series. Turns out, he's become one of Vanderbilt's stars in Omaha.
Campbell's bases-loaded infield single in the bottom of the 10th inning gave the Commodores a 4-3 win over Texas on Saturday night and sent them to the finals against Virginia.
Campbell was in his second game filling in for third baseman Xavier Turner, who was ruled ineligible Friday for a violation of NCAA rules.
"As far as these past few days, it's just been fun," Campbell said. "From the time I got in, I've tried to stay focused and stay in the moment, and it's been all right."
All right, indeed.
Campbell had only 21 at-bats this season when he stepped to the plate in the 10th. He fouled off a pitch and took another before he grounded to shortstop. C.J. Hinojosa charged the ball, but couldn't get it to first in time to get Campbell.
Campbell waited behind the bag to be mobbed by teammates who came flooding out of the third-base dugout and bullpen.
"That's what these moments are about, when kids have been practicing all year and not getting in games. Then their number is called," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "Everybody is so happy for this kid. They wanted him to play, and just to see him succeed, the team is beyond happy."
Freshman Hayden Stone (3-0) struck out eight in 5 2-3 innings of relief of Carson Fulmer. Vanderbilt (49-20) gives the SEC a team in the CWS finals for the seventh straight year.
Vanderbilt, which avenged a 4-0 loss to the Longhorns (46-21) on Friday, survived a couple of scares to advance to the best-of-three CWS championship series, which begins Monday night.
In the fifth inning, Fulmer issued three straight walks to load the bases with one out. Stone came on and Ben Johnson grounded his first pitch to third, where Campbell started the inning-ending double play.
In the Texas 10th, Hinojosa drilled a ball deep to right, but Rhett Wiseman sprinted into the right-center field gap and extended his glove to make the catch before falling onto the warning track.
"The ball hung up there long enough," Wiseman said, "and luckily we were in position to have a shot at it. It was a no-doubles situation in the top of the 10th. Hayden made a good pitch, and he put a good swing on it."
Hinojosa, who homered for the only run in a win over UC Irvine on Wednesday, said he thought he might have another.
"I squared it up, and it was probably the best pitch I saw all day, and probably the best swing I had all day," he said. "Off the bat, I did think it was over his head. He's a good outfielder, and he tracked it well and made a good play on it."
Texas reliever John Curtiss (2-3) got Zander Wiel to ground out and John Norwood to fly out to start the bottom of the 10th. Wiseman followed with a single, pinch-hitter Ro Coleman walked and Karl Ellison was hit above the left elbow by a 91-mph fastball to load the bases for Campbell.
"As far as the last at-bat, I think I did most of my thinking on the on-deck circle," Campbell said. "When I was in the dugout in the hole, I was expecting to come up. I was expecting those guys to get on. I tried to keep the ball on the ground."
Texas had tied it at 3 in the sixth when Tres Barrera drove the ball over Norwood in center field and scored on Zane Gurwitz's single.
Garrido called his Longhorns the best Texas team since the 2005 squad that won the national title. Texas had finished last in the Big 12 last year and hadn't made the NCAA tournament the previous two years.
"They finished fifth in the league and here they are third in the country," Garrido said. "The separation: C.J.'s ball gets caught and it prevents a run. They hit a ball -- don't square it up -- and they beat it out to first with the bases loaded. It's hard to explain. Cruel game."