Sixty-four teams began the 2015 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament and were whittled down to eight for the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. After eight days of play, just two teams remain, as Virginia will take on Vanderbilt for the college baseball title in a rematch of last year's College World Series championship series, which Vanderbilt won in three games.
Vandy handily defeated TCU 7-1 on Friday to grab one spot in the final series, which follows a simple best-of-three format.
Virginia needed two games to dispatch Florida, as the Gators came chomping through the loser's bracket to win 10-5 on Friday, only to see the Cavaliers turn the tables on Saturday in a tense 5-4 win that has them just two more victories away from exacting revenge at TD Ameritrade Park.
If you want to take a look at the results that have gotten us to this point, you can view the complete bracket at NCAA.com.
Here's a look at the championship schedule.
|College World Series: Championship Schedule|
|1||Monday, June 22, 8 p.m.||ESPN|
|2||Tuesday, June 23, 8 p.m.||ESPN|
|3 (If Necessary)||Wednesday, June 23, 8 p.m.||ESPN|
Between these two familiar CWS foes, Vanderbilt certainly has the better pedigree this season. The Commodores finished the regular season ranked 13th in the nation in RPI, eight spots better than Virginia. Vandy was a regional host back in the earliest stages of the Division I tournament, while the Cavaliers had to navigate their way through to the Super Regionals as the No. 3 team in UC-Santa Barbara's regional.
Vanderbilt had three players taken in the first round of this year's MLB draft including No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, a shortstop drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Virginia's top pick was lefty hurler Nathan Kirby, who went No. 40 overall to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Swanson hasn't been himself in Omaha. He's just 1-for-13 with five strikeouts at TD Ameritrade, a major drag batting third in Vanderbilt's lineup. He was hitless in Vandy's one-run wins over Cal State Fullerton and TCU. Outfielders Rhett Wiseman and Bryan Reynolds managed to pick up the slack in Vandy's second crack at the Horned Frogs, combining for five hits and four RBI in the 7-1 win.
Of course, Vanderbilt may not even need much offense with the way its pitching staff has been dealing as of late.
|Vanderbilt CWS Starting Pitching|
|Carson Fulmer||Fullerton, W 4-3||6.0||4||3||3||2||7|
|Philip Pfeifer||TCU, W 1-0||7.0||4||0||0||3||7|
|Walker Buehler||TCU, W 7-1||6.2||4||1||1||1||8|
The starting pitching has set the table for the excellent relief work of John Kilichowski and closer Kyle Wright. Kilichowski is working with a 2.76 ERA this year and hasn't allowed a run in 4.2 innings of work in Omaha, while Wright has picked up two saves and boasts a microscopic 1.01 ERA.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin challenged his players to consider how they would prepare knowing each game might be a close one.
"If you had the chance to play in Omaha and knew every game was going to be a one-run game, how would you go about your practice?" Corbin said to his team, via the Tennessean's Adam Sparks. "They told me and they responded to me. It was like what I would want them to say. … They knew they were going to be in this."
For Virginia, look for third baseman Kenny Towns, catcher Matt Thaiss and shortstop Daniel Pinero to lead the charge against a dominant Vanderbilt pitching staff. Towns leads the team in RBI this year with 66, followed closely by Thaiss at 64.
|Virginia 2015 CWS Hitting (Four Games)|
Both teams have tight-roped their way through College World Series play, so it's tough to say who has the upper hand. Vanderbilt's pitching has been almost uniformly excellent since postseason play began, allowing just 11 runs in eight games.
Virginia hasn't been nearly as miserly in handing out runs, with 36 allowed in nine games. This includes two double-digit blips against USC and Florida—the former in a start from Alec Bettinger and the latter (surprisingly) coming against Kirby.
Anything can happen in a best-of-three series, but Vanderbilt just might tamp down the Cavaliers offense well enough to allow its own batters to scrape together the necessary run support. This seems especially likely if Swanson finds the range again with his lumber.