Buehler took over for struggling first-round draft pick Tyler Beede and helped move Vanderbilt within one win of the CWS championship round. The Commodores (48-19) will play in a bracket final Friday against the winner of a Wednesday elimination game between UC Irvine (41-24) and Texas.
Buehler (12-2) retired the first nine batters he faced and finished with seven strikeouts in only his third relief appearance of the year. Only two balls were hit out of the infield against him.
Norwood’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth inning put Vanderbilt up 5-4, and his two-strike, two-out single in the seventh made it a two-run game.
Elliot Surrey (8-5) took the loss, allowing five runs in 4 1-3 innings in just his third start.
Beede, the 14th overall draft pick by the San Francisco Giants, continued to struggle with his command. He failed to make it past the fifth inning for a second straight start and sixth time in 18 outings. He walked three and hit three in 3 2-3 innings and was charged with four runs. He’s walked 24 and plunked 10 batters in his last 37 innings.
The Anteaters had no answer for Buehler, though. The 6-foot-1, 160-pounder mixed a biting curveball with a fastball in the mid 90s. It was an impressive bounce-back from his last outing, a super-regional start against Stanford that lasted three innings.
Buehler’s biggest challenge came in the eighth when he issued a walk and hit a batter with two out. He ended the threat by striking out Adam Alcantara on three pitches, bringing Beede out of the dugout to offer congratulations.
UC Irvine, one of the last four teams selected for the 64-team NCAA tournament, beat Texas 3-1 in its CWS opener but now must win three games to reach next week’s best-of-three finals.
Surrey came into the game having given up no runs in eight innings and two in his previous 15. But Vanderbilt turned three singles and a walk into a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Irvine batted around while taking a 4-2 lead in the second. The Anteaters tied it when Grant Palmer scored from third on Alcantara’s bunt, and Sparks gave them the lead with a two-run single for his fourth hit in his first six CWS at-bats.
The Commodores regained the lead in the fifth, tying it when Bryan Reynolds scored from second after Zander Wiel hit a ball over Alcantara in left field for a double. After Evan Brock relieved with the bases loaded, Norwood’s sacrifice fly to left gave Vanderbilt the lead.