At this point, it really should surprise no one that Virginia has lived to play another day at the College World Series. Coach Brian O’Connor’s squad has pretty much made survival a habit. The Cavaliers, after all, stared down the end of their season when they went to North Carolina for their final regular-season series needing to sweep the Tar Heels to make the ACC tournament.
So they swept.
Once in the ACC tourney, Virginia needed to take down Georgia Tech in a play-in game. And so it did, beating the Yellow Jackets 11–0, which also sealed its place in the NCAA tournament, where it has gone on a nice run. Of course, the Wahoos had to beat Florida twice to get into the CWS finals and the opportunity to meet Vanderbilt in a rematch of last year’s final series.
And while it looked bad after Vandy’s Carson Fulmer shut it down in Game 1 on Monday night, Virginia showed again Tuesday night that there’s still some magic left in this run, as the Cavaliers beat Vanderbilt 3–0 to force a winner-take-all championship game on Wednesday night.
Virginia, with a run-down pitching staff, got five innings of shutout ball from freshman lefthander Adam Haseley (who also hit leadoff, since he’s normally the Hoos’ centerfielder) and 12 outs from junior closer Josh Sborz (who happened to pitch four innings only three days prior to Tuesday's game). Sborz went above and beyond, throwing more than 70 pressure-packed pitches to get it done.
The Hoos got three hits from senior rightfielder Thomas Woodruff, who hit .235 this season, but played like a man who didn’t seem to want it to be his final game in a Virginia uniform. Woodruff’s two-run, two-out single in the sixth plated the Cavaliers' second and third runs. The hit came after freshman Ernie Clement (a .240 hitter this year), drove home the game’s first run with a two-out single. Unlikely heroes like Woodruff and Clement stepped up to do more than they might normally be accustomed to doing.
Whatever it takes to survive.
Perhaps the only reason it seems a bit surprising is that Virginia wasn’t supposed to be able to do this again, not against a team like Vanderbilt, which had a nine-game win streak snapped. Vandy is the team of three first-round draft picks, including No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson. It is the program on the cusp of hearing phrases like “best of all-time.”
Only Virginia wasn’t ready to let it happen.
So now it comes down to one game and Virginia will have Brandon Waddell on the mound on three days rest. Vanderbilt has Walker Buehler (5–2, 2.85) ready. He’s a first-round pick, having been selected No. 24 overall by the Dodgers a couple of weeks ago. So, advantage Commodores.
But at this point, what does that mean for Virginia? Not much. It's been here before.