OMAHA, Neb. -- Tyler Campbell started just once and garnered just 15 at-bats in Vanderbilt's first 67 games this year. But when regular third baseman Xavier Turner was ruled ineligible Thursday night for unspecified NCAA rules violations, the Commodores turned to Campbell.
Though he hadn't played since May 13, the sophomore responded with two singles in his first College World Series start on Friday, a 4-0 loss to Texas. Campbell came up even bigger in a rematch against the Longhorns on Saturday night, with his infield single in the bottom of the 10th giving Vanderbilt (49-20) a 4-3 victory and its first berth in the College World Series championship series.
The Commodores will face Virginia for the national title, with the first game of the best-of-three finals slated for 8 p.m. ET on Monday.
When Campbell came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 10th, he was 0-for-4 for the game and the bottom third of the Vanderbilt lineup was 0-for-12 Saturday and 3-for-35 for the series. He hit a slow roller that Texas junior shortstop C.J. Hinojosa charged and unloaded quickly, but Campbell clearly beat the throw.
"I did most of my thinking in the on-deck circle more than once I was actually up," Campbell said. "... Once I got up, everything kind of took care of itself. I just tried to keep the ball on the ground."
Campbell also provided a key defensive play in the top of the fifth inning, when the Longhorns had the bases loaded with one out and were threatening to snap a 2-2 tie. Speedy sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson chopped the ball to Campbell, who started an around-the-horn double play.
During a practice earlier in the CWS, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told his team that someone unexpected would get called on to contribute. Campbell has made Corbin look prophetic.
"That what these moments are about, when kids get a chance who have been practicing all year but just haven't been in games and then all of a sudden get their number called," Corbin said. "It takes a great deal of patience and then when you get in there, it takes a great deal of controlled emotions. And Tyler's been able to do that.
"And everyone is so happy for this kid. They wanted him to play and just to see him succeed, the team is beyond happy."
Campbell wasn't the only underclassman who sparked the Commodores. Sophomore right-hander Carson Fulmer, a projected 2015 first-round pick, had trouble commanding his 93-96 mph fastball all day. He squandered a 2-0 lead when he gave up a two-run single to freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens in the fourth inning -- the son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger -- and loaded the bases with three straight walks in the fifth.
Enter freshman right-hander Hayden Stone, who has a wicked mid-80s slider. He said he wasn't fazed by coming into a deadlocked CWS semifinal game with the bases loaded, and it took him all of one pitch to induce Johnson to bounce to Campbell for the crucial double play.
"I had been there before, so it wasn't really anything new," Stone said. "And I've learned that you can't make the situation bigger than what it really is. All you can try to do is throw a quality pitch in the zone and that's what I did. I threw him a breaking ball, he got on top of it and we rolled it for two."
In 5 2/3 innings, Stone gave up just three hits and a walk while striking out eight -- all with his slider. The only run he allowed came in the sixth, when junior center fielder John Norwood's bad jump allowed freshman catcher Tres Barrera's fly ball to get over his head for a leadoff triple.
While Campbell's heroics were unexpected, Stone's shouldn't have been. In the deciding game in the super-regionals against Stanford, he earned his second victory of the season by allowing just one unearned run while fanning eight in six innings of relief. His third win came on Saturday night.
"He has the right heartbeat," Corbin said. "You put him on the mound and bases are loaded and I say, 'Here you go again, Hayden.' He said, 'Yep, let's go.' I don't mean to make it sound simple, but he's got a very good temperament for that part of the game, and he believes in himself and all of the pitches that he throws."
A third underclassman, sophomore right fielder Rhett Wiseman, found himself in the midst of much of the action for Vanderbilt. The Commodores' leading hitter in Omaha with a .429 average, he gave them a short-lived lead in fifth with an RBI double off the top of the right-field fence.
In the top of the 10th, Wiseman made the defensive play of the game, racing to the warning track in right-center to rob Hinojosa of what would have been at least a leadoff double. In the bottom half, Wiseman started the winning rally with a two-out, bases-empty single up the middle. Three batters later, he raced home on Campbell's grounder to put Vanderbilt in the CWS finals.
While his team celebrated on the field, Corbin drank it in from the dugout.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Corbin said. "I said it last week, it's the parent just watching your kids open the Christmas gifts. You don't hustle under the tree and start opening yours with them. I don't want to be in the mess, I just want to watch it ...
"I enjoyed it when we got the moment to come to Omaha. That was fun and I enjoyed watching them tonight. And we'll enjoy this tonight emotionally and then we'll get back to business tomorrow, because this tournament keeps on moving."
Virginia 4, Mississippi 1 (Mississippi eliminated)
Vanderbilt 4, Texas 3 (10 innings, Texas eliminated)
Vanderbilt vs. Virginia, 8 p.m. ET