As predictable as it may be, Vanderbilt and Virginia remain in the College World Series now that the dust has settled and the field has been reduced to two.
The nation's pastime will once again come into crystal-clear focus with collegiate basketball and football taking a rest, meaning the best-of-three showdown at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, will be one of the biggest sporting events of the month.
Thus far, the tournament has been of the thrilling variety, as the collegiate atmosphere that makes the other popular sports so entertaining has been on full display. Except now that just two teams remain, things will get kicked up an additional notch.
With the first game of the series on Monday, let's take a look at how to catch the series in its entirety and how Las Vegas feels about the proceedings.
|2014 CWS Finals Schedule|
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||TV Info|
|CWS Finals: Game 1||Monday, June 23||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|CWS Finals: Game 2||Tuesday, June 24||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|CWS Finals: Game 3*||Wednesday, June 25||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|NCAA.com, * denotes if necessary|
|2014 CWS Odds|
Note: Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Enthusiasts know that pitching is the key to a true College World Series champion, so it should come as no surprise that oddsmakers have thrown the most support behind Virginia.
Since 1974, when aluminum bats were adopted, the Cavaliers have allowed the second-fewest runs through the first three games of the spectacle (two earned runs in 33 innings). After entering the season ranked No. 1, the same pitching staff has propelled the program to its first finals appearance in its history.
Much of the credit can go to surefire 2015 first-round pick Nathan Kirby, who was named the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year recently, as noted by the conference's Twitter account:
The Cavaliers' star on the mound figures to be the starter Monday night, routinely hits 92 mph or more with his fastball and has 15 strikeouts and a 2.75 ERA through 19.2 innings this postseason. He is flanked by Nick Howard, who only needs one accolade to accompany his name—he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds recently at No. 19 overall.
For the Commodores, a trend of collegiate baseball dominance continues; their advancement to the finals means an SEC team has made the finals for seven straight years.
But like Virginia, Vanderbilt has yet to seize a national title.
The approach for the Commodores lies in stark contrast to what the Cavaliers utilize. Vanderbilt takes more of a committee strategy to most areas, as referenced by the 10th-inning heroics of Tyler Campbell, who hit a game-winning single to upend Texas (he entered with just 21 appearances at the plate).
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told the Associated Press, via the Boston Herald, that the performance summarized his team's character well:
"That's what these moments are about, when kids have been practicing all year and not getting in games. Then their number is called," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "Everybody is so happy for this kid. They wanted him to play, and just to see him succeed, the team is beyond happy."
While a few expected these two teams in particular would make it all the way through, it is still nice to see fresh faces make an appearance in a show of the sport's parity. Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde puts it best:
Intense pitching battles will once again rule the day, which will prove a fitting end to a wild tournament where most of the highlights came via wicked performances from the mound or in the field to keep box scores at a minimum.
As the final hurrah to the collegiate landscape's baseball season, it is only right Vanderbilt and Virginia are left alone to dance.