Monday night kicks off the best-of-three series between the strong pitching of the Virginia Cavaliers and the run-manufacturing Vanderbilt Commodores for the right to take the 2014 College World Series title.
With two very diverse teams set to face off, we are certainly in for some thrilling action over the final series.
Will Virginia's prowess on the mound get the best of Vanderbilt's small-ball style of offense or vice versa?
This is the burning question on everyone's mind as we head into this highly anticipated matchup. Before this question is answered, let's take a look at the series schedule and predict how it's all likely to unfold.
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||TV Info|
|1||Mon., June 23||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|2||Tue., June 24||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|3*||Wed., June 25||8 p.m.||ESPN|
The full tournament schedule can be found at NCAA.com.
As I mentioned earlier, it will all come down to Virginia's pitching against Vanderbilt's offense.
Through three games in double-elimination bracket play, the Cavaliers only allowed a total of four runs against quality opponents.
According to Brandon Speck of FoxSports.com, the team has been impressive since arriving in Omaha:
Virginia has won seven of eight games, mostly with stellar pitching. Cavs' pitchers are taking a 0.55 ERA into the series, having allowed only two earned runs in 33 innings in Omaha. The Cavs' bullpen has allowed three runs in 30 NCAA Tournament innings, not one single run in 14 innings at TD Ameritrade Park. That's seven base runners allowed through 47 batters faced.
Aaron Fitt of Baseball America tweeted that the Cavaliers would be starting ace Nathan Kirby in Game 1:
Virginia will start Nathan Kirby in Game 1, of course, and likely Brandon Waddell in Game 2. Vandy says Beede and Buehler will pitch Game 1.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 22, 2014
Kirby will prove to be a formidable threat to the Commodores, as he's tallied a 9-2 record and a 1.70 ERA through 17 appearances this season.
Pitching for Vanderbilt will be Walker Buehler, according to Nick Cole of The Tennessean:
#Vandy will start Walker Buehler in Game 1 of the national championship series tonight.— Nick Cole (@ncole6) June 23, 2014
Buehler is 12-2 this season with a 2.27 ERA in 18 appearances. He's struck out 109 batters this season, but he's also given up 77 hits. However, of those 77 hits, only 28 runs were plated—25 of them earned.
With Buehler possibly susceptible to allowing a few runs, Vanderbilt's offense must step up against Virginia's stellar pitching.
Which team wins it all?
Led by Bryan Reynolds and Dansby Swanson, the Commodores have a .281 batting average for the season but have been hitting far more effectively during the tournament.
Vanderbilt's batting average jumped to .297 while plating a tournament-high 63 runs on an impressive 101 hits. On base, the Commodores are effective as well, racking up 24 stolen bases in 32 attempts.
The Commodores may not be able to continue their offensive surge against the phenomenal Kirby in Game 1. This will lead to a great deal of momentum for Virginia to close out the series in Game 2 against Vanderbilt's projected starter, Tyler Beede.
Virginia in two.