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Virginia makes all the right moves

OMAHA, Neb. -- Brandon Waddell, the sophomore lefty who on Tuesday pitched Virginia to victory for the second time at the College World Series over a recent first-round draft pick, shares a special connection with Robbie Coman.

They're roommates back in Charlottesville.

"We're literally the exact same person," Waddell said. "We see eye-to-eye."

In Game 2 of the College World Series championship series, they were battery mates.

At home, Waddell and Coman own a big fish tank. In it, Waddell keeps five Tetra GloFish -- a fact that Waddell found amusing on Tuesday in a way that likely only Coman could understand.

Coman, who shares time behind the plate with Nate Irving, got the start on a gut feeling from coach Brian O'Connor in what would eventually be a 7-2 victory over Vanderbilt; the win evened the best-of-three finals at one game apiece, setting up a winner-take-all game Wednesday night (8 ET on ESPN) for the national championship.

The coach's hunch worked to perfection as Waddell fired a complete-game five-hitter for his team-high 10th win of the season. Coman helped calm the pitcher's nerves on the biggest stage in college baseball.

O'Connor is pushing all the right buttons this year in Omaha, his third visit to the CWS in six years.

He moved Waddell, Virginia's ace last year who pitched third in the rotation this spring, to the No. 2 spot for the second game of the super regional against Maryland. Facing elimination, the Cavs won 9-3 behind 5⅔ strong innings from Waddell.

Again as the No. 2 starter, he lasted seven innings on June 17 at TD Ameritrade Park in Virginia's 15-inning win against first-rounder Brandon Finnegan and TCU.

Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede, drafted 14th overall by the Giants this month, opposed Waddell on Tuesday. The Cavs, down 2-1 after five innings, got to Beede for three runs in the sixth and two in the seventh.

Waddell retired 13 straight from the fifth through ninth innings. His nine-inning effort preserved the UVa bullpen. With Josh Sborz expected to start on Wednesday, look for a heavy dose of fresh-armed Artie Lewicki and Nick Howard -- a lethal bullpen duo for the Cavaliers.

"They'll certainly be called on," O'Connor said.

It's all hands on deck, of course, for both teams on Wednesday.

Interesting that Vanderbilt went with a more conservative approach in Game 2. Twelve outs from their first national title, the Commodores stuck with Beede, who struggled in his past two outings, through the rocky sixth.

He allowed three singles, a stolen base and a pair of RBI groundouts before Brandon Downes pounded a triple to center field to score Kenny Towns. Still laboring in the seventh, Beede surrendered two more singles and issued an intentional walk. Towns then singled to score two, prompting a pitching change.

Vanderbilt lacked urgency, considering the opportunity at hand, though its bullpen was taxed heavily over the previous three days.

Walker Buehler threw 71 pitches in a start on Monday. Jared Miller threw 56, also in Game 1 of the championship series. Brian Miller threw 115 in relief on Friday against Texas. John Kilichowski threw 42 on Monday. Hayden Stone threw 72 on Saturday.

As it turned out, Virginia's comeback from a seven-run deficit to lose 9-8 on Monday may have saved it on Tuesday.

That, and Waddell's clutch performance.

Waddell said he felt momentum swing in the fourth inning. With a run across on John Norwood's double, Waddell caught Norwood too far off second base. Before the pickoff, Waddell said, he was rushed.

He quickly found a groove after it.

"He gave us a lot of confidence," said Downes, the UVa center fielder who finished 2-for-5.

O'Connor swelled with pride over Waddell, who handled his adjusted pitching assignment this year "like a champion."

In the end, he saved Virginia twice from elimination.

"He's a great teammate," O'Connor said.

"I really couldn't be more proud of our club, facing elimination, facing the end of the season."

Virginia, behind Waddell, battled back on Tuesday. It appears in better pitching shape than Vanderbilt for Wednesday.

Credit O'Connor for pushing the right buttons as the Cavs finally face an ending they can savor.