The 2014 College World Series between Virginia and Vanderbilt was destined for a Game 3.
After a fluky inning in Game 1 that saw the Commodores push nine runs across the plate before going on to win, the Cavaliers came out firing on all cylinders and eased to a 7-2 victory in Game 2 to force Wednesday night's final showdown.
So far, a series that was supposed to be all about pitching—highlighted by names like Nathan Kirby (who allowed five earned runs in that nine-run inning) and Tyler Beede (who allowed six runs and 10 hits in Game 2)—has essentially been anything but as the two sides exchange haymakers.
What: CWS Game 3
When: Wednesday, June 25, at 8 p.m. ET
The first title for either school is on the line Wednesday night. For all intents and purposes, it should already belong to the Cavaliers.
Kirby was a disappointment of epic proportions for one inning in Game 1, but after that dreadful frame the Commodores almost gave away a 9-2 lead. Brandon Waddell was far from a disappointment the following night, going nine innings and allowing just one earned run.
Fans of the sport know what that means. Arguably the best pitching staff in all of collegiate baseball is fresh. As Creighton sports information director Rob Anderson points out, the options are plentiful:
Does Virginia start Artie Lewicki (7 IP, 1 H, 2 wins in the CWS) or Josh Sborz (5 IP, 0 ER in CWS) tomorrow? Or Howard? All great options.— Rob Anderson (@_robanderson) June 25, 2014
Oh, and all involved are confident, per The Associated Press (via ESPN):
"I know the bounce-back this team has shown all year long," Cavaliers coach Brian O'Connor said. "You know when you go through a season with a team, you start to learn and understand what they're made of and what the fiber of a team is. I told the team after the game last night that there is no panic in this ballclub. Come out tonight and play a great ballgame, and we'd have a chance to win."
This is not to suggest Vanderbilt does not stand a chance, but it is an issue when coach Tim Corbin is forced to roll with Carson Fulmer, who last took the mound on Sunday against Texas and did not make it through four innings while giving up two earned runs on four hits and issuing six free passes.
It would not be a shock to see Fulmer last only four more innings, but this time because Corbin is not afraid to dip into the well, as noted by Dan Phillips of Fox 17:
Tim Corbin said Carson Fulmer likely to start tonight's title game. I've been told EVERYONE but Tyler Beede will be available. #CWSFinals— Dan Phillips (@DanoFox17) June 25, 2014
Vanderbilt may also come out with the proverbial chip on its shoulder after a perceived cheap shot by the Cavaliers' Mike Papi in the ninth inning of Game 2, as he bowled over a baseman after getting caught between third and home.
As if the CWS needed any more attention, this was the overwhelming storyline of the night, as one can discern from this tweet by ESPN's Skip Bayless:
Glad Mike Papi wasn't suspended for tomorrow nite's national title game after cheap shot. Want UVa at its best, and he is their best.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 25, 2014
Whether it plays a role, the escapade is the hunger for a title by both teams personified.
Logic points to Virginia coming out on top. One bad inning can win a game though, as the Commodores showed in the opener. But as it stands, Virginia looks like the better team and is fresh where it matters most.
Prediction: Virginia 6, Vanderbilt 3