The first games of the men's 2021 College World Series didn't disappoint, with NC State and Vanderbilt each forcing Stanford and Arizona into the losers' bracket Saturday.
The fate of the second half of the field will be determined through a pair of games Sunday, with Tennessee and Virginia facing off in a battle that began at 2 p.m. ET and Texas and Mississippi State handling the nightcap at 7 p.m. ET.
But as for those with one game already under their belt, their chance at a College World Series title is on the line in their next-ups. Here's a look at what's scheduled for Monday, as well as what to expect around the bracket:
College World Series Monday Schedule and TV Info
Elimination Game: Stanford vs. Arizona, 2 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Winners' Bracket: NC State vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
View the full College World Series bracket at NCAA.com.
Stanford vs. Arizona
These teams are far from strangers.
The Pac-12 opponents met earlier in May when the Wildcats were ranked No. 9 in the nation, and No. 16 Stanford claimed the series victory behind a standout performance from Alex Williams in the rubber game.
The 8-2 victory was even more striking at the time considering it followed a mismatched 20-2 loss on the Saturday of the series, which showcased a Wildcats team that was at the time the top offense in the conference. The lopsided loss was marked by 15 hits and 15 walks off six different pitchers, with the Wildcats scoring in six different innings.
But Vanderbilt quieted that fire-powered offense in the opening game of the College World Series on Saturday—though barely, as star Vandy pitcher Kumar Rocker was, well, rocked early, giving up three runs on four hits before settling in over 5.2 innings. It was thanks to the bullpen that the Commodores hung on for a 12-inning victory.
In Stanford's first outing Saturday, the Cardinal struggled behind Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Brendan Beck. Beck was only credited with three runs, though NC State scored six throughout his tenure on the hill en route to a 10-4 win.
There's hope still for the Wildcats, who haven't lost two consecutive games since April. Stanford has been on a hotter run throughout the postseason, having dropped just two games while scoring at least nine runs in all five NCAA tournament wins.
Monday's must-win game figures to be a close one with both teams battling for their future in the tournament. But in the end, expect Arizona's high-powered offense—which boasts a fourth-best .329 team batting average—to win out.
Prediction: Arizona 5, Stanford 3
NC State vs. Vanderbilt
The Wolfpack's Cinderella run is on the line against Vanderbilt, though they certainly played like they belonged when they upended Stanford 10-4 on Saturday by powering out to a 6-0 lead, which was unlike the Commodores' late win over Arizona.
Jonny Butler was responsible for half of the Wolfpack's scoring, going 3-for-4 and bringing in five runs, the most by an NC State player in a College World Series game. He was one of two players to go yard in the outing along with Devonte Brown.
That offense should have the defense to back it when NC State takes the field against Vanderbilt on Monday. Sam Highfill should get the start on the hill, and the freshman has proved that he can hang on the big stage. He sent 16 consecutive batters down in Game 2 of the super regional series against top-ranked Arkansas and hasn't lost since April 3.
The Wolfpack's offense has helped the team lately, scoring at least six runs in all but two of its postseason games. But Vanderbilt's pitching staff is one of the best in the NCAA with a 3.37 combined ERA, ranking sixth overall. Jack Leiter and Rocker are the one-two punch of all one-two punches—Leiter leads the NCAA with 156 strikeouts and Rocker is just one behind him.
Head coach Tim Corbin acknowledged the impact of his aces after the tight victory that cemented their spot in the game against the Wolfpack.
"I thought they hung tough," Corbin said. "And the pitching allowed us to do that. If we don't pitch the way we do, then we don't get those moments."
With the off game already out of their system, the Commodores' pitching should be able to humble the Wolfpack to stay atop of Bracket 1.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 6, NC State 1