Originally Published: June 20, 2014

Vandy, UVa one win from championship series

By Mitch Sherman | ESPN.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- Ole Miss beat TCU 6-4 on Thursday in a College World Series elimination game, whittling the field to four teams.

On Friday, Bracket 1 pits Texas and Vanderbilt at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The Longhorns must win to force a winner-take-all game Saturday for a spot in the championship series. In Bracket 2, Ole Miss plays Virginia on Friday night at 8 on ESPN. The Rebels are in the same spot as Texas.

If Vandy and Virginia win Friday, no games will be played Saturday or Sunday. The best-of-three championship series begins Monday.

Nathan Thornhill (8-3, 1.63 ERA), the senior right-handed ace, will pitch for Texas against sophomore right-hander Tyler Ferguson (8-3, 2.51) for the Commodores in his first start since May 17.

Virginia is expected to start sophomore right-hander Josh Sborz (5-4, 3.04). Ole Miss was undecided after its victory.

Storylines to watch:

The SEC perspective: Vanderbilt needs one win to give the Southeastern Conference a participant in the championship series for the seventh consecutive year. The Commodores would be the sixth different SEC school to play for the crown over that span, though SEC teams have lost to programs from the Pac-12 the past two years. The last SEC champ was South Carolina in 2011, when it beat league rival Florida. Meanwhile, Texas is 6-1 against SEC competition in CWS elimination games, losing only to LSU in the 2009 finals. In all, UT coach Augie Garrido is 20-9 in elimination games at this event, trailing only former USC coach Rod Dedeaux. Vanderbilt is 4-0 all time in Omaha against non-SEC teams, so something has to give.

Offensively speaking: Texas, the home team on Friday against Vanderbilt, won its past two games in Omaha without getting a hit in seven attempts with runners in scoring position. The Longhorns beat UC Irvine 1-0 on Wednesday to stay alive, marking the second straight year the CWS has featured a 1-0 game after it went 27 years without one. Vanderbilt, by contrast, has scored a robust 11 runs in its two victories. The other teams in Omaha are averaging 2.4 runs per game. The Commodores have brought life to their offense by stealing a tournament-best eight bases in two games.

Flair for the dramatic: Virginia is the eighth team in CWS history to record multiple walk-off wins in the same year at the event. The Cavaliers, who will be the visiting team on Friday, beat Ole Miss on Sunday and TCU on Tuesday in their final at-bats. Of the seven previous teams to win more than once by walk-off in Omaha, six played for the national championship and four won the title. Virginia's 16 one-run wins this year, including both games in Omaha, are tied for the most nationally. But the Cavs are hitting .091 (2-for-22) with runners in scoring position at the CWS. Their bullpen has come to the rescue, holding opponents scoreless in 10 innings.

Mitch Sherman

ESPN Staff Writer


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