JOE BIDDLE: Deja-VU foiled as Commodores go down to Virginia

Vanderbilt baseball

OMAHA, Neb. (WKRN) – How sweet it was.

For Virginia.

A team that was falling apart in the middle of the season, found what it needed when it counted and prevented Vanderbilt from completing a back-to-back College World Series national championship.

The Cavaliers took a 4-2 win over the Commodores with sound pitching that limited Vanderbilt to two runs on just five hits on the night.

The scene was surreal. This year it was Virginia celebrating and Vanderbilt players consoling each other. They just didn’t have it when it counted on the final game of the season.

For the heart of the Vanderbilt team, there will be no more winter workouts, some of them outside in the biting Tennessee weather. No more running hills to increase their stamina. No more throwing long toss to strengthen their arms.

They knew winning championships required going through the price you have to pay to reach the top of the mountain.

Even then, they couldn’t pull it off.

They realized major league players such as David Price fell short of his team’s goal. It didn’t matter how big your heart was. No one wanted a national championship more than Price, a lanky southpaw that grew up in the shadow of the program Coach Tim Corbin was putting in place.

It would be a foundation built to last, one that would change the climate of Vanderbilt athletics, a program that was void of national championships other than baseball, women’s bowling and women’s tennis.

But Virginia, a team that lost to Vanderbilt in last year’s championship series, had revenge on its mind. The two teams were locking into a game dominated by the starting pitchers.

The Cavaliers would not go easy. Falling behind 2-0 through three innings, freshman Pavin Smith yanked a Walker Buehler pitch into the right field stands to even the score at 2-2 as Kenny Towns had drawn a walk.

At 2-2, it was promising to be another nail-biter.

The series was filled with great defensive plays.

One cost Vanderbilt a run in the bottom of the fourth when the Commodores had Penn Murfree at third base with two outs and Tyler Campbell’s hard grounder down the line at third was fielded by Kenny Towns, who made a Brooks Robinson type play to nip Campbell at first for the third out.

“It was hit pretty hard down the line and I got a glove on it and was able to throw the runner out,’’ Towns said. “We got behind early but kept fighting.’’

In the top of the fifth, Tim Corbin went to his bullpen twice, the second time with runners on first and second with two outs. But reliever Ben Bowden gave up a run on a single to left field giving Virginia a 3-2 lead. It would be all they needed.

Vandy’s second baseman Tyler Campbell saved another run when he fielded a hard grounder to his right and flipped it to shortstop Dansby Swanson for the third out. But the damage had been done. It was up to Vanderbilt to answer the go-ahead run.

Virginia added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when the Cavaliers opened with an infield single, bunted the runner to second and plated him with a single by Kenny Towns.

After only three days rest, Virginia pitcher Brandon Kendall retired 11 Commodores in a row before exiting after the seventh inning.

Vanderbilt was down 4-2, but had its top of the lineup on in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Southpaw Nathan Kirby struck out Bryan Reynolds on a slider. Rhett Wiseman drew a walk, putting the tying run on base for Dansby Swanson, who was called out on strikes by an appeal to the first base umpire.

That left it up to Zander Wiel, who struck out on a slider in the dirt.

It was Virginia’s night, the ACC school’s first national championship in baseball.

How sweet it was.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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