For the third time in five years, and the second consecutive year, Vanderbilt baseball goes to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. The 2014 National Champions advanced with a two-game sweep of host and 6th-ranked Illinois, 13-0 and 4-2. Vanderbilt will meet four-time CWS champions, Cal State-Fullerton on Sunday night. The game can be seen at 7 pm on espn2.
That final opening round matchup in Omaha will feature the only two road teams that won their Super Regional, with Fullerton winning a pair of extra-inning games in their three-game upset of #3 Louisville. Also in Vanderbilt’s bracket are #two LSU and #seven TCU, who will meet in Sunday’s first game at 2 pm. The 2015 CWS gets started on Saturday with 2014 runner-up Virginia taking on Arkansas at 2 pm, and #four Florida meeting #five Miami at 7 pm. Each bracket is double-elimination with the winners to meet in the ‘best-of-three’ CWS Finals beginning June 22.
It is a field which features four from the SEC, two in each bracket: LSU, Florida, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. A pair from the ACC is there, with Miami and Virginia. The ACC is still looking for their first CWS champion since Wake Forest in 1955. TCU from the Big XII appears for the second straight year after outlasting Texas A&M 5-4 in a 16-inning winner-take-all ‘game three’ in Fort Worth. It was that close to five SEC teams. Cal State-Fullerton from the Big West fills out the field.
The Titans of Fullerton have always played the game the same way regardless of the bats or the balls or anything else, and it is a style Tim Corbin used to great effect in building his program. From the days under legendary coach Augie Garrido now at Texas, to George Horton now at Oregon, to current coach Rick Vanderhook, Fullerton uses great pitching, flawless defense, and small ball to win. At the plate they take a lot of pitches, draw a lot of walks, and then use speed to steal bases with the sacrifice bunt prominent. On the mound they have always featured tall pitchers who have great command and make you earn everything. Fullerton never beats itself.
This Fullerton team hit only 20 home runs all season, but 11 came from David Olmedo-Barrera, two in the clinching ‘game three’ win against Louisville including the game-winner in the 11th. Vanderbilt will no doubt see big Thomas Eshelman, who picked up the save in ‘game three’ after 100 pitches two days before in ‘game one.’ The Titans also feature a premiere closer in Tyler Peitzmeier, so Vandy’s work is cut out for them on Sunday for sure. But Fullerton is far less imposing offensively than Louisville, or any other team they may face in this CWS, throwing strikes and not giving them extra outs are the keys.
Vanderbilt’s second game will be Tuesday, a loser’s bracket game at 2 pm or a winner’s bracket game at 7 pm against either LSU or TCU. Vandy did not play LSU this season, but they did lose a February game to TCU at Dodger Stadium. Should the Commodores start 2-0, they would next play on Friday if 1-1 on Thursday. What you do not want, in the words of longtime Florida State coach Mike Martin, is to go “0-2 and barbecue” referring to the season-ending gathering.
Vanderbilt is the favorite until they are beaten, but LSU is fierce. Observers have waited all year to see them meet, if the Commodores are to return to the Finals, they will have to go through the Tigers.