The 2015 College World Series has already fostered a number of compelling plot twists that determined how Tuesday's schedule ultimately shook out.
LSU hails from the SEC, touted as the best conference in the nation, and is the top-ranked team in the country. No one must have told TCU before its Omaha opener, because the Horned Frogs trounced the Tigers 10-3 to move into the winner's bracket.
In Tuesday's first game, Cal State Fullerton will face off with LSU for the right to keep its national championship dreams alive.
|2015 College World Series Schedule: Tuesday, June 16|
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream||Projected Winner|
|LSU vs. Cal State Fullerton||3 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN||LSU|
|TCU vs. Vanderbilt||8 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Vanderbilt|
A number of reasons could be utilized to explain why the Titans aren't moving forward to battle TCU instead. With all the momentum in its previous contest, Mother Nature took matters into her own hands, as a rain delay disrupted the Titans' rhythm as they led Vanderbilt 3-0 in the sixth inning.
Just one pitch of live action later, the Commodores got on the board. Although Cal State Fullerton did what it could to cling to a two-run lead, Vandy rallied for three runs and a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to stun the Titans 4-3.
NCAA Baseball highlighted the significance of Jeren Kendall's heroic dinger:
Vanderbilt is the reigning national champion—and got only one hit from the first three in its batting order to earn the right to play the Horned Frogs. It goes to show the type of depth Vandy has in its lineup, not to mention three strong starting pitchers and a stalwart bullpen to boot.
Recent No. 1 overall MLB draft pick Dansby Swanson didn't have a hit in the first CWS contest. Considering he was last year's MVP in Omaha, expect Swanson to bounce back and galvanize the Commodores against an admittedly tough TCU adversary.
Intimidating as the Horned Frogs can be with their combination of speed and sound defense, they don't have the type of power Vandy boasts to consistently hang tough over the course of nine innings. Vanderbilt has been here before and knows what it takes, so it's likely the Commodores come out on top with TCU backing up a little after its shockingly dominant triumph over LSU.
And as for the Tigers, their loss won't sting as much as the one the Titans suffered. LSU could see defeat coming, while Fullerton was blindsided and never regained its rhythm once Sunday's stoppage occurred.
D1Baseball.com's Aaron Fitt acknowledged Connor Seabold could pose problems for the Tigers, but he hinted at how formidable his counterpart will be:
Alex Lange, the NCBWA's Freshman Pitcher of the Year, will be on the bump for LSU on Tuesday. This gives the Tigers a considerable advantage.
Lange is 11-0 with a 1.89 ERA this season (h/t The Advocate's Ross Dellenger), and LSU head coach Paul Mainieri has plenty of confidence in his first-year dealer, per TigerRag.com's James Moran:
The Titans already used their best pitcher in Houston Astros second-round draft choice Thomas Eshelman, whose outing was unfortunately cut short by the rain.
Eshelman refused to use the postponement as a scapegoat for Fullerton faltering on Monday, per The Tennessean's Adam Sparks:
Such an attitude is commendable, yet it won't help the Titans advance much further in Omaha, because Eshelman can't possibly pitch until Fullerton's next prospective game. Such a reality probably won't even materialize for the Big West champions.
Should the Horned Frogs fall to Vandy, they would have their hands full with LSU in falling into a win-or-go-home third game of the College World Series. It would be nice to see a non-SEC team like TCU rise to the occasion and prove any doubters wrong when it matters most.
A showdown between Vanderbilt and LSU in the next phase of the tournament would be fascinating to witness, though.
The Tigers' attempt to reaffirm their superiority in the SEC this year against the guardians of NCAA baseball's top prize is quite the narrative setup. Head-to-head bragging rights between Swanson and his shortstop counterpart Alex Bregman, the draft's second pick, would only add to the sizzle of the potential matchup.