Winner-take-all finale on tap in Omaha
OMAHA, Neb. -- We're down to one game at the College World Series. Vanderbilt or Virginia will walk away on Wednesday night with its first national championship. The game starts at 8 ET on ESPN.
UVa evened the best-of-three championship series on Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory behind a complete-game performance from sophomore left-hander Brandon Waddell.
The Cavaliers have outhit Vandy 28-11 in two games at TD Ameritrade Park. But it's a clean slate for Game 3. For the first time since 2009, it's winner-take-all in Omaha.
"It's just one game left," Vanderbilt center fielder John Norwood said, "so you've got to put it all out there."
Keep an eye on these storylines:
Who has momentum? It's Virginia, no doubt. The Cavs are hitting .354 (28-for-79) in the championship series compared to Vanderbilt's .177 (11-for-62). That figure for the Commodores drops to .143 without its nine-run third inning on Monday, which was aided by five walks. Of Vandy's 20 losses this year, 10 have come in successive games, so coach Tim Corbin's club has not responded well to defeat. But the Commodores are 2-0 this postseason in elimination games, defeating Stanford in super regionals and Texas 4-3 in 10 innings on Saturday. Virginia is 3-0 in elimination games after Monday.
The pitching matchup: Both teams appear set to use starting pitchers on three days of rest. Vanderbilt ace Carson Fulmer (7-1, 2.00 ERA) threw 90 pitches on Saturday against Texas, his second CWS start. The sophomore right-hander earned a victory for 5 1/3 innings against Louisville on June 14 in Vandy's CWS opener. After largely resting its bullpen on Tuesday, Vanderbilt likely will employ no such strategy in Game 3. The Commodores have not received a quality start since the final game of regionals. Their bullpen in the postseason has allowed eight earned runs in 30 1/3 innings, while starters have surrendered 21 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings. For Virginia, sophomore right-hander Josh Sborz (6-4, 2.84) started Friday against Ole Miss and Saturday in the resumption of the game, allowing one unearned run on 81 pitches over five innings for the win. Sborz has not allowed an earned run in 12 innings over two starts this postseason. Notably, Virginia relievers Artie Lewicki and Nick Howard, who together own a spotless ERA in 24 2/3 postseason innings, have not worked since Saturday.
On the basepaths: Vanderbilt holds the edge in speed, although Virginia has kept the Commodores in check over two days -- in part by limiting baserunners. Vandy has stolen three bases in four attempts after swiping 13 in four CWS games to reach the championship series. Look for Vanderbilt to run on Wednesday, if opportunities arise. Its speed, even without getting too aggressive, affected Virginia's third-inning meltdown on Monday. The Cavs, meanwhile, used a pair of hit-and-run calls and stole a base on Tuesday in the key three-run sixth inning to avoid double plays and maximize the damage against Vandy pitcher Tyler Beede.
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Will the ACC end its drought?
"OK, I know what you're going to ask, so let's get this out of the way."
Brian O'Connor said it with a tone that was equal parts "oh man, this is funny" and "oh man, here we go again." It was February, and his Virginia Cavaliers were about to start the 2014 college baseball season as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation. They were favored to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, roll into Omaha, Nebraska, and win the national championship.
"Go on, ask me ..."
Having already led UVa to Omaha twice and having spent his childhood attending countless games at Rosenblatt Stadium, heck, even playing there, O'Connor has both witnessed and experienced the pain that leads to what he knows is an inevitable question when it comes to his conference and June baseball. He always knows the question is coming. So does every other coach from his conference.
"Coach, is this the year that an ACC team finally wins the College World Series?"
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