No one said it would be easy.And for Vanderbilt’s baseball team, it hasn’t been.
The Commodores and Virginia meet Wednesday night to decide the NCAA championship series.
After taking a bizarre 9-8 win over the Cavaliers Tuesday night, Vanderbilt had an opportunity to sweep the best two-of-three series, but allowed Virginia to erase a 2-0 lead on their way to an impressive 7-2 win.
If Vanderbilt doesn’t manufacture some more runs, they won’t win. Their bats have been muted the first two games.
Former Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede started strong Tuesday night, but Virginia hitters started pounding his circle change pitch once they figured him out.
In the first three innings, Virginia batters had only three hits from 15 batters. In the next three innings, it was obvious Cavaliers batters had figured Beede out, going 6 for 13 at the plate.
They took a 4-2 lead with a three-run sixth inning.
Vanderbilt didn’t bring it’s A-game Tuesday night, but has been a resilient team that has come from behind before.
If they win Wednesday night, it would mark the first men’s sports national championship in Vanderbilt history.
Leading 4-2 in the top of the seventh, Virginia bought some insurance. The Wahoos loaded the bases with one out. Vanderbilt first baseman Zander Wiel fielded a soft grounder and threw the runner out at home for the second out.
But a key single through the left side of the infield plated a run before Kenny Towns ripped a Beede fastball to left field that pushed another run across for a 6-2 lead in the top of the seventh.
This was the same Vanderbilt team that scored nine runs in the third inning Monday night, but most of that was fool’s gold, gift wrapped by Virginia’s inability to find the strike zone. Five walks during the inning didn’t hurt.
Still, the Commodores escaped by the skin of their teeth when they hung on to win a nail-biter, 9-8.
Virginia southpaw Brandon Waddell started and went the distance. After giving up two runs, he silenced the Vanderbilt bats in a masterful outing on the mound. Heading into the ninth inning in Game 2, Virginia had six runs, 11 hits, one error. On the other hand, Vanderbilt had only two runs, four hits and two errors. They had a runner picked off at second base. Not exactly Tim Corbin coached baseball.
The Cavaliers added a meaningless run in the ninth inning to rub salt in the wound. Vanderbilt must find its batting eye or it will not win.
So this is the way it should be between two teams favored in Las Vegas to meet in the championship series.
It will stretch the college baseball series another 24 hours before a champion is crowned.
Both teams have invested a lot of time and sweat equity over a long season to get here.
This Vanderbilt team has come back when all seemed lost before.
Wednesday night will tell all.