Stanford fell one comeback short of returning to the College World Series, falling to Vanderbilt, 12-5, in the championship game of the NCAA Super Regional in Nashville on Sunday.
The last Pac-12 team standing, Stanford gave all it could squeeze out of a group expected to finish sixth in the conference in a vote of the coaches just over four months to exceed all expectations, with the exception of the team itself.
"If there is one thing I've learned about this team is its resilience," Stanford junior infielder Alex Blandino said. "We battled the whole year. We never quit, especially in the playoffs where we had some unbelievable runs."
The Cardinal (35-26) qualified for the postseason by the thinnest of margins, overshadowed by schools like the nation's overall No. 1 seed Oregon State and higher-ranked Washington, Oregon and Arizona State.
Stanford took full advantage of its opportunity to showcase a talented group of seniors and juniors, eight of whom were chosen in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft over the past week, and an equally talented group of freshmen.
Led by freshman All-American Cal Quantrill, the rookies (freshman pitchers started 45 of 61 games) have a future in this game.
"All you had to do is look at the box scores in the regional to understand how powerful they were and how they could come back because that Indiana team was very, very good," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "For Stanford to do that, it had to have a special group of players."
Stanford's wild postseason ride ended just short of its 17th College World Series appearance, while Vanderbilt advances to Omaha for the second time in program history.
"We couldn't stop (Vanderbilt) all day," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. "They played a great game. I'm sure they will do really well at the College World Series."
Stanford finished the year competing in its 10th Super Regional and recording its 20th 30-plus win season in the last 21.
The Commodores (46-19) and Louisville meet Saturday to open the College World Series.
The Cardinal fell behind for the fifth straight game, facing a 5-0 deficit even before getting its first at bat.
Logan James (3-4) started, but could not get out of the first inning. Marcus Brakeman was stellar in the relief, keeping the game close enough for Stanford to make a bid for another improbable comeback.
The Cardinal did recover; scoring four times in the third and matching Vanderbilt's run in the fourth with one of its own.
That's the way things stood until Vanderbilt found a slight opening ion the seventh, scoring four times to take control of the contest.
Tommy Edman and Danny Diekroeger, who had three hits on the day, sparked the third-inning rally. They each singled ahead of Blandino's double. Zach Hoffpauir drove in another run on an infield grounder, which was misplayed and turned into another run ahead of Wayne Taylor, who tripled home the fourth run.
Stanford's bullpen struggled to find an answer past Brakeman. Five pitchers, including Friday starter John Hochstatter and closer A.J. Vanegas, who threw 53 pitches Saturday, made an appearance in the seventh and two more took the mound in the eighth.
Of Vanderbilt's 15 hits, eight came with two strikes on the batter, including six on an 0-2 or 1-2 offering.
Austin Slater, drafted by the San Francisco Giants, finished as the team's top hitter with a .341 average. Hoffpauir was next at .324, with included seven home runs. He also drove in 40 runs.
Diekroeger, selected by the St. Louis Cardinals, hit .313 and led the team with eight stolen bases and a .404 on-base percentage.
Blandino, taken in the first round by the Cincinnati Reds, hit .310, with team highs in home runs (12), RBI (44) and slugging percentage (.531).
Quantrill (7-5, 2.68) and Brett Hanewich (4-4, 3.17) led a freshmen group that started the first 27 games of the season. The group also included Chris Viall (2-3, 4.74), Tyler Thorne (2-0, 4.76), Griffin Weir (0-0, 4.15) and Chris Castellanos (0-1, 4.12, three saves).
Edman was the top offensive freshman, appearing in 58 games, with 48 starts, and hitting .256, with three homers. Alex Dunlap, Jack Klein and Matt Decker combined for one homer and 20 RBI.
Stanford had five players selected on Day 3 of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, after three were selected during the first two days. The Cardinal ties for the second-most draft picks among college programs with eight, behind only Mississippi's nine.
Alex Blandino 1st round (29th overall) Cincinnati Reds
Austin Slater 8th round (238th overall) San Francisco Giants
Danny Diekroeger 10th round (315th overall) St. Louis Cardinals
A.J. Vanegas 11th round (339th overall) Los Angeles Dodgers
Wayne Taylor 16th round (471st overall) Seattle Mariners
Dominic Jose 24th round (722nd overall) New York Yankees
Brant Whiting 30th round (909th overall) Los Angeles Dodgers
Sam Lindquist 37th round (1,101st overall) Seattle Mariners
Top college programs by draft picks:
Florida State, 8
Oregon State, 8
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