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Aaron Westlake powers Vanderbilt into College World Series with 3 homers

6/12/2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In Game 1 of the NCAA super regional between Oregon State and Vanderbilt, the Beavers stayed away from Commodores slugger Aaron Westlake.

A day later, Oregon State decided to pitch to Westlake -- and he made the Beavers pay.

Westlake hit three two-run home runs to lead Vanderbilt to a 9-3 victory over Oregon State on Saturday that put the Commodores in the College World Series for the first time.

The first baseman, drafted in the third round by the Tigers, became the first Commodores player to hit three home runs in a game in 20 years and Vanderbilt (52-10) swept the best-of-three series.

All three homers were off left-handers -- one against starter Ben Wetzler and two off Matt Boyd.

"Maybe they figured they would have a chance against me, left-on-left," said Westlake, who has 17 homers this season. "They were good pitches. I just got a couple good pitches to hit. With guys on base, it makes it tougher to throw the pitches you want to throw. Maybe you make a mistake and I was able to capitalize on them."

Anthony Gomez knocked in two runs with a single -- his fourth hit of the game -- in the sixth to make it 5-2 and Westlake followed with a two-run shot to right-center field.

"He hit mistakes tonight," Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. "Now, that doesn't take anything away from him. But we left some balls in the middle of the plate to the wrong guy on a couple occasions ... Tremendous hitter."

Parker Berberet led Oregon State (41-19) with two RBIs and Carter Bell hit a solo home run in the eighth.

Vanderbilt's Will Clinard (2-2) pitched 4 2/3 innings in relief, working around a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth. Beavers reliever Scott Schultz (4-1) allowed the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Jason Esposito.

Clinard struck out Berberet for the final out as the Vanderbilt dugout cleared in a hurry and the celebration ensued in front of a wild crowd of 3,387.

Vanderbilt heads to Omaha having won 11 of 12. The Commodores were playing in their third super regional and second straight after coming up one win short of the College World Series in 2010. They never trailed in the series and in five NCAA tournament games, they have outscored opponents 46-6.

"What these kids have achieved to be in this particular position is phenomenal," Vandy coach Tim Corbin said. "We met Aug. 25 and that was the day we said we were going to open Ameritrade Stadium (in Omaha). We said, 'The stadium will be built then. Will we be built then?' And we are built today. So we are going. The train has another stop."

Vandy jumped out in front in the first inning when Westlake hit a line-drive home run to right field.

Oregon State, which lost Friday's opener 11-1, battled back as Berberet knocked in the first run in the first on a two-out single.

He then tied it in the third on a sacrifice fly.

Vanderbilt regained the lead in the fifth. With Wetzler out, the Commodores chipped away at Schultz. He gave up a double and two walks to load the bases with one out.

Esposito hit a soft fly ball into shallow left field that landed between three players as left fielder Garrett Nash and shortstop Ryan Dunn collided.

Center fielder Brian Stamps threw to second for the force out but Gomez trotted into home easily.

The Beavers squandered their best chance to go in front in the bottom of the fifth.

Down 3-2, they put runners on first and second with one out against Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year Grayson Garvin.

Clinard entered and proceeded to throw a wild pitch and walk the bases loaded. But Bell struck out and Jake Rodriguez popped up to shallow right field to end the inning.

"I have been put in that situation a lot this year," Clinard said. "Knowing I have a great defense behind me, I can go in there and throw strikes. Just having that trust in my defense to get out of the situation is huge."