OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — This scrappy Virginia team with patchwork pitching and a late-to-start offense finds itself one win away from its first national title.
The Cavaliers forced a winner-take-all Game 3 in the College World Series with its 3-0 victory over defending champion Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Game 2 showed nothing is impossible for a team that has overcome injuries and rough patches that nearly cost it a spot in the ACC tournament and relegated it to a No. 3 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“This team’s earned the right to play another ballgame, and that’s how they will treat it,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “I don’t think they’ll put any more into it than they have at this point. Certainly we’re going to have to play great baseball to beat a great Vanderbilt club. And they’ll just continue to go out there and play the best they can and hopefully in the end have a chance to win.”
For the second year in a row, Virginia (43-24) and Vandy (51-20) will go the distance in the best-of-three finals. Virginia will start Brandon Waddell (4-5) on Wednesday night. For Vanderbilt, Walker Buehler (5-2) would appear to be next in line to start, but coach Tim Corbin said he was undecided on whether he would start the first-round draft pick.
Waddell combined with Josh Sborz to beat Florida twice in the CWS, the first time a shutout. Buehler pitched a strong 6 2/3 innings while beating TCU on Friday in his only appearance.
O’Connor said Sborz, who has worked 13 innings in Omaha and has three wins to show for it, is ruled out for Game 3.
As for Vanderbilt, Corbin said, “You get to this point in the tournament and everyone’s on go. With the exception of Carson (Fulmer). But you know, he’ll be fighting to grab the ball in a situation that’s worthy. I think the bullpen is all ready to go.”
Surprise starter Adam Haseley and Sborz combined on the shutout Tuesday, and senior utility man Thomas Woodruff drove in two runs.
Woodruff started for the first time since May 19 because Joe McCarthy had to move to center to take the usual spot of Haseley, who was on the mound for the first time since May 23.
O’Connor called on the freshman because he’s short of starting pitching depth, and he had to hold back Waddell for a possible Game 3.
Haseley worked into the sixth inning for his longest outing and turned over a scoreless game to Sborz (7-2). Haseley gave up four singles, walked three and struck out one during his 71-pitch outing.
“I think it was a different kind of nerves than a regular game when I’m playing in the field,” Haseley said. “Playing some games here before in the field, being out there and having playing time, did help.”
Sborz, who picked up his third career win in the CWS, hasn’t allowed an earned run in 27 consecutive innings. He was tested Tuesday, with Vanderbilt getting its leadoff batter on base in the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth innings.
The ninth was especially tense for Sborz after Bryan Reynolds singled and Will Toffey walked. But Sborz struck out Jeren Kendall, got Karl Ellison to fly out and struck out Nolan Rogers to end the game.
Virginia broke through against Vandy starter Phil Pfeifer (6-5) for three unearned runs in the sixth after he had retired the first two batters.
Kevin Doherty got on board after his grounder up the middle bounced off second base and McCarthy reached when first baseman Zander Wiel couldn’t handle his hot smash.
Ernie Clement followed with an RBI single into left, and Woodruff drove a ball into center for two more runs.
The Cavaliers have scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning or later in each of their nine NCAA Tournament wins.
Clement, a freshman, and Woodruff, a senior who came into the game with only 67 at-bats in his career, combined to go 6 for 10 as the Nos. 8 and 9 batters in the order.
Vanderbilt is trying to become the seventh school to win back-to-back national titles and the third to do it in the last 10 years. Virginia, with a win Wednesday, would be the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to win the baseball national championship since Wake Forest in 1955.