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College World Series

Vanderbilt makes itself at home in tourney’s new venue

Associated Press / June 19, 2011

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Vanderbilt was no nervous newcomer to the College World Series yesterday.

Connor Harrell hit the first CWS home run in the new TD Ameritrade Park to break a sixth-inning tie, and three relievers held North Carolina scoreless on three hits over the last five innings in the Commodores’ 7-3 victory in Omaha.

After first baseman Aaron Westlake made a diving stop of Chaz Frank’s hard grounder and touched the bag for the final out, there were just the normal handshakes and backslaps behind the pitcher’s mound.

The Commodores (53-10) will save the dogpile for, they hope, the championship game in about 10 days.

“That was a big victory for us,’’ Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “You never know how you’re going to react the first time.’’

Vanderbilt played as it has for most of the season — including its knack for scoring big runs with two outs — and North Carolina (50-15) got a so-so start from Patrick Johnson and left 16 runners on base.

Conrad Gregor tied it with two outs in the sixth with his double off the top of the wall, and Harrell followed with his two-run homer. Two-out singles by Tony Kemp and Anthony Gomez produced two insurance runs in the eighth.

Vanderbilt, the No. 6 national seed, advanced to a Bracket 1 game tomorrow night against Florida. Third-seeded North Carolina plays Texas tomorrow afternoon.

Corey Williams (2-0) worked 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for Vanderbilt starter Sonny Gray. Johnson (13-2), who had allowed three earned runs in his previous 45 innings, was tagged for four earned — five total — in six innings.

Williams came on in the fifth to strike out Frank after Gray, the Oakland Athletics’ first-round draft pick, walked the bases loaded.

“The fifth inning was the decider,’’ Corbin said. “They had 20 guys reach base today. The fact they scored three runs, we’re fortunate. Corey’s strikeout with the bases loaded was big.’’

Florida 8, Texas 4 — Brian Johnson and Bryson Smith drove in two runs apiece, Hudson Randall turned in another strong start, and the Seminoles defeated the Longhorns.

Johnson’s two-out double in the seventh broke open a close game. Smith’s second RBI single the next inning gave reliever Nick Maronde a four-run cushion going into the ninth.

Randall (11-3) followed up a terrific eight-inning outing in the super regionals against Mississippi State with another 6 2/3 strong innings against the Longhorns, who are in the CWS for a record 34th time.

Randall scattered five hits, walked none, and struck out five. Only one of the four runs against him was earned.

Randall retired 13 straight batters starting in the third inning. Jacob Felts broke through with a two-out single in the seventh, and Jordan Etier followed with a run-scoring double to cut Florida’s lead to 5-4 and bring on Greg Larson.

The 6-foot-8-inch, 225-pound righthander caught Tant Shepherd looking at strike three to end the threat.

Taylor Jungmann (13-3), the Milwaukee Brewers’ first-round draft pick, had a third straight rough outing for the Longhorns. He went 4 1/3 innings for his shortest start of the season, and four of the five runs against him were earned.

Jungmann, who started the season 13-0, had come into the CWS off losses in his previous two starts. He allowed two doubles and a single, walked four, hit a batter, and threw two wild pitches.