With Game 1 of the 2015 College World Series Finals going to Vanderbilt, Virginia enters Tuesday's Game 2 with its back against the wall, as another loss would hand the Commodores their second consecutive national championship.
The stakes will be massive for the Cavaliers when they take the field at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, but Vandy can't afford to relax either. Virginia has proved to be one of the toughest and most resilient teams in the country all season long, so one can only assume the Commodores will do everything in their power to prevent the series from going to a decisive third game.
Here is a look at the television and live stream schedule for the remainder of the 2015 College World Series Finals, along with further analysis regarding how Game 2 between Vanderbilt and UVA will ultimately play out.
College World Series Schedule
|College World Series Finals Schedule|
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||Team||Team||Watch||Live Stream|
|2||Tuesday, June 23||8 p.m.||Vanderbilt||Virginia||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|3*||Wednesday, June 24||8 p.m.||Virginia||Vanderbilt||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|NCAA.com (Game 3 if necessary)|
Vanderbilt Player to Watch: Dansby Swanson
There were many contributors to Vandy's success leading up to Game 1 of the College World Series Finals, but one player who surprisingly hadn't made much of an impact in the NCAA tournament was superstar shortstop Dansby Swanson.
The five-tool midfielder was the first overall selection in the 2015 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks; however, he entered Monday's contest hitting just .242 during the tourney. Overall, Swanson is hitting .339 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI on the season, so his recent struggles are unexpected, to say the least.
There has been some speculation that the pressure that comes along with being the top pick in the draft has gotten to Swanson, but he insists otherwise, according to ESPN.com:
"It's one of those things you can't control, what's going on outside of you anyway," Swanson said. "You just play your best and your hardest and hopefully the results will speak for themselves."
Perhaps the tide is starting to turn in Swanson's favor, as he finally produced some positive results Monday against Virginia. He was a key figure in Vandy's 5-1 win, as he went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run to help push the Commodores to within one win of their second consecutive College World Series title.
Swanson has a penchant for coming up big in the most important games, and that was evident once again Monday, as he battled through his recent slump.
While Swanson's talent was due to take over at some point, Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin believes his demeanor and the manner in which is carries himself are contributing factors to his success as well, per Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com:
Officials named Dansby the Most Outstanding Player in last year's College World Series, and while that award may be out of reach this year due to his uneven play prior to Monday, that won't stop him from attempting to lead the way in Game 2.
Vandy's pitching will be hugely important, as Philip Pfeifer will attempt to follow up Carson Fullmer's gem with one of his own, but Swanson has been the lifeblood of the team for the past couple seasons, and he has enough ability and influence to put the team on his back.
Virginia Player to Watch: Kenny Towns
There are some players in sports who are simply better on the big stage. One such player is Virginia third baseman Kenny Towns, who has undoubtedly been the driving force behind the Cavs' somewhat unlikely run to the College World Series Finals for the second consecutive year.
Virginia isn't exactly stacked with top-tier hitting, which puts a great deal of pressure on Towns to perform. It doesn't seem to bother him, though, as he is hitting nearly .300 and leads the team with 66 RBI.
Towns drove in the decisive run against Florida to advance to the finals, and while it was undoubtedly a huge moment for Virginia, head coach Brian O'Connor suggested that Towns coming through in big moments has become commonplace over the years, according to Eric Vander Voort of NCAA.com:
"He's gotten so many big hits for us," O'Connor said. "Kenny's played a lot of games in our uniform in four years. He's come through so many times, especially in this postseason."
Experience can be a major factor in elimination games, and while both teams know what it's like to play in the College World Series Finals already, the Cavaliers may have a slight edge in that regard due to Towns' presence.
As pointed out by Creighton Sports Information Director Rob Anderson, Towns is easily the most seasoned veteran on either roster:
Virginia is the type of team that needs to manufacture runs and win tight games, for the most part, but it could certainly use a dominant performance from Towns after Vandy essentially shut down the lineup in Game 1.
Tuesday's contest could be the last of Towns' incredible collegiate career, but he has a chance to ensure that it isn't. Although he needs some help from those around him, including the pitchers, Towns can be the driving force behind a Game 2 victory.
Game 2 Prediction
As Game 2 of the CWS Finals approaches, there are many factors that seem to be working in Vandy's favor. Not only are the Commodores the defending champions with a 1-0 series lead, but they also figure to have the advantage on the mound.
Virginia is keeping things close to the vest, as it has yet to announce a Game 2 starter, while Vanderbilt has already revealed that Philip Pfeifer will toe the rubber. The talented lefty was a third-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this month, and he has plenty of incentive to perform.
As pointed out by Eric Single of Sports Illustrated, he is one of Vanderbilt's only key players who wasn't part of the national title run in 2014:
That is because the team dismissed Pfeifer due to drug and alcohol abuse. He has bounced back in a big way, as he is 6-4 with a 3.77 ERA and is holding opposing hitters to a .217 batting average.
He was especially good in a 1-0 win over TCU, as he allowed only four hits in seven innings to pick up the victory. It was a fantastic moment of redemption for Pfeifer, and his head coach couldn't have been prouder, per Adam Sparks of the Tennessean:
"I'm just so overwhelmed by it because the fact that he's here and just playing for us, it's such a good story from a human comeback thing," Corbin said. "Just that he's able to be wearing a uniform, still going to school and still living a normal life, that supersedes everything, supersedes the game."
Pfeifer is seemingly pitching with a chip on his shoulder after having to watch his teammates go all the way last year. Now he is a huge part of Vandy's success, and he has a chance to put an exclamation point on the season.
Winning the championship behind the arm of Pfeifer would be the perfect ending to another spectacular season for Vandy, and that is precisely what will happen in the form of a 3-0 victory in Game 2.
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