The Vanderbilt Commodores have the chance to defend their national championship in the College World Series finals in a rematch of last year's finale against Virginia.
Game 1 is Monday in Omaha, Nebraska, and Vandy figures to have an edge after defeating the Cavaliers in the prior title tilt. Vengeance is a powerful agent of motivation, though. Virginia has the ultimate opportunity to stick it back to the Commodores.
Since the championship series is a best-of-three, Monday's showdown won't doom one of these teams, but it will set the tone for what happens going forward. Here is a look at the basic Game 1 information and TV listings:
|2015 College World Series Finals: Game 1 Info|
|Monday, June 22||Virginia vs. Vanderbilt||8 p.m.||ESPN||Vanderbilt|
South Carolina was the last program to notch back-to-back national titles, only the seventh time the feat had been achieved. Given the quality of the SEC, widely touted as the country's best conference, it comes as little surprise the cluster has another team on the brink of doing the same.
Not that it has any true bearing on the outcome of the 2015 championship, but ESPN Stats & Info has an anecdote that bodes well for Vanderbilt:
Vandy is led by the reigning Most Outstanding Player and No. 1 overall MLB draft pick in shortstop Dansby Swanson. Its lineup boasts a combination of power and speed that TCU simply couldn't hang with in a 7-1 romp by the Commodores in their last contest.
Swanson exuded the proper perspective of a true team leader in discussing the road to the finals, per Vandy Baseball:
But it would be unwise to count the Cavaliers out. Head coach Brian O'Connor has seen his club develop an uncanny knack for battling through adversity, per NCAA Baseball:
Virginia dropped its first game against Florida 10-5, yet didn't get discouraged in grinding out a 5-4 victory in the next game to advance to the national finals once more. It was a struggle for the Cavaliers just to get into their ACC tournament, much less knock off the second-ranked team in the nation en route to a return trip to the championship.
Commodores star pitcher Carson Fulmer is the Game 1 probable, and he gives his side a big advantage over counterpart Connor Jones.
Fulmer was the eighth pick in the recent MLB draft. He's flamethrower who's an absolute force with a 13-2 record and 1.95 ERA.
SEC Network's link to a Game 1 preview shows the edge Vanderbilt will have on the mound:
Looking ahead at the rest of the series, between Fulmer, Walker Buehler and Philip Pfeifer, Vandy has the clear edge in starting pitching and a strong bullpen to complement the marquee trio. The Commodores are fresher than Virginia, and Buehler had 18 days between his past two starts—the last of which was the triumph over TCU—so he'll be ready to roll on the biggest stage.
It's quite an achievement for Virginia to have made it this far. Unfortunately for Cavaliers fans, this is where the club's inspiring run likely loses steam. The Cavaliers may push the action to three games, but Vanderbilt has the combination of rest and incoming form to establish itself as the superior squad in Game 1.
Game 1 Prediction: Vanderbilt 6, Virginia 2