Campbell leads offensive explosion


OMAHA, Neb. -- Word came to Tyler Campbell from the Vanderbilt coaches at 11:30 on Thursday night that everything was about to change, eight days into the Commodores' stay at the College World Series and about 80 hours after Campbell voluntarily stepped in front of a taser gun.

Needing someone to fill a hole at third base left by Xavier Turner, who was suspended for a violation of NCAA rules, Campbell picked up the endorsement of veteran teammates, validation for which coach Tim Corbin sought. So after starting just one of Vanderbilt's first 67 games, welcome to the lineup, kid. Now, go help us win a national championship.

Four days later, he's the talk of the tournament.

The sophomore from Portland, Oregon, delivered a pair of doubles in the third inning of Vanderbilt's 9-8 win over Virginia in an opening game of the CWS championship series that veered nearly as far off script as Campbell's stay in Omaha.

The Commodores, one win away from the school's first national championship in a men's sport, scored all nine runs in that fateful third, capped by Campbell's bases-loaded shot to left field that scored three to provide the difference.

"You have to credit the young man," UVa coach Brian O'Connor said. "He's been thrust in there on the biggest stage in college baseball, and he's performed."

Campbell's two extra-base hits in the third matched his career total. So did his three RBIs on the double off Virginia reliever Whit Mayberry.

And all of this came after he produced a walk-off single in the 10th inning on Saturday night as Vanderbilt beat Texas 4-3 to earn a spot in the championship series. He's 5-for-12 in three CWS games, exceeding his previous career hit total.

"I try to stay in the moment, for the most part," Campbell said. "Obviously, I realize it's a big deal, a national championship, but that just makes it more fun, a bigger stage."

Corbin, alongside the wide-eyed Campbell on Monday at the post-game news conference, joked that his third baseman is a veteran now.

"He's played three games," the coach said. "I just thought his play all the way around was aggressive and on point."

Campbell said he stayed sharp throughout the season and last week in Omaha by preparing to get a chance.

"We're competing every day," he said. "It could have been at any point in the year when I need to come in, but we happened to have guys who were doing a great job."

Still, he hardly expected that opportunity to come here. Otherwise, Campbell likely wouldn't have stepped up last Monday when airmen at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, asked if one of the visiting Commodores would like to get tasered.

He signed a waiver, then experienced five seconds "of the worst pain you can imagine."

"It felt like 20 seconds," he said.

Campbell felt better quickly, though his back remained sore for a few hours.

Likely not the activity Corbin would endorse for, say, second baseman Dansby Swanson or left fielder Bryan Reynolds.

Despite his inexperience and the tasering, the Commodores expected Campbell to perform.

"Tyler is a phenomenal teammate and guy," said Swanson, a third-team All-American. "Every day, he's come to work, and Coach always reminds us that at some point in the season, somebody that hasn't necessarily played as much as they would have liked would get a chance to make a difference.

"He took that to heart."

With Vanderbilt in Omaha, Campbell's parents stayed home in Oregon. But he has heard regularly from them and other family. Two friends made the trip on Monday.

Starting with the late-night news on Thursday, Campbell said he has slept poorly. On the field, though, he has felt comfortable.

"I've been calm," he said. "I've been able to realize where I'm at. Off the field, things have just been moving fast. I haven't been able to process it yet, digest it."

No one could easily process the events on Monday as Virginia outhit Vanderbilt 15-6 and scored in five of nine innings. But the Cavaliers couldn't escape the third. Ace Nathan Kirby suffered a meltdown, walking five, including three with the bases loaded.

"I just couldn't find my release point," Kirby said. "It hadn't happened all year, but it happened tonight."

The nine runs in the third marked the most in a CWS inning since Florida State scored 11 in 2008.

For 25 straight games before Monday, no team lost here when it scored five runs or more in a game. Before Monday, the scoring average in this CWS ranked as the lowest ever. Now, it's the second lowest, and that's partly because of Campbell.

If things follow a similarly unexpected path for the Commodores on Tuesday in Game 2, Campbell might just feel right at home.