Vanderbilt defeated Virginia 9-8 to take Game 1 of the College World Series on Monday, and although the scoreline was predictably close, few could have imagined just how the game would unfold. This series looks primed to go three games, making Game 2 a can't-miss baseball event.
Virginia jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, which in most cases is plenty of runs for its hard-throwing starter, Nathan Kirby.
However, Kirby struggled with control early in the game and then completely unraveled in the third inning. Vanderbilt racked up nine runs in the third frame, its only scoring output of the entire game. How unlikely was Kirby's performance? His ERA stood at 2.06 after the five earned runs in 2.1 innings pitched.
Virginia was somehow able to put that nightmare inning behind it and spent the remainder of the game chipping away at the lead, picking up three runs in the bottom of the third, two in fifth and one in the eighth inning.
With the score at 9-8, Vanderbilt closer Adam Ravenelle came in for the bottom of the ninth inning for an easy "three up, three down" frame to end Virginia's comeback hopes.
Here is the schedule and television info for Game 2 of the College World Series Final.
College World Series: Game 2 Viewing Info
Where: TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska
Time (ET): 8 p.m.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Players to Watch
Brandon Waddell, LHP, Virginia
According to ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman, Brandon Waddell is set as the Game 2 starter for the Cavaliers. He will have to restore order to Virginia's universe with his pitching performance; the team hadn't allowed an earned run in 24 innings prior to the third-inning debacle.
Waddell is 9-3 on the season with a 2.57 ERA. His last performance came against TCU, where he allowed just five hits and one earned run in seven innings of work.
He has excellent control for a lefty; he didn't issue any free passes against TCU and should be much sharper than Kirby was in his disastrous start.
Dansby Swanson, 2B, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt will likely need more than one inning of offense to dispatch Virginia in the minimum two games. The speedy Dansby Swanson is key to jump-starting the offense.
Swanson went 1-for-3 with two walks and a run scored in Game 1. He's at the top of the lineup for a reason; his .413 on-base percentage proves he's the epitome of a great table-setter in college baseball.
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt believes Swanson has been the most impressive position player in the College World Series thus far:
His postseason has been great, but the fleet-footed second baseman has been putting up strong performances all season. Swanson is hitting .337 on the season and swiped 20 bases in 25 attempts. He's also been a doubles machine this season, racking up 27.
Swanson will have to be careful and avoid getting picked off against the left-handed Waddell. The Commodores cannot afford to squander opportunities in Game 2, as their big inning will seem a long way off come game time on Tuesday night.
Mike Papi, 1B, Virginia
Virginia did well to chip away at Vanderbilt's big lead throughout the game, but it would like Mike Papi to join in the effort next game. Papi went 0-for-4 in Game 1 but isn't likely to have another game as a non-factor.
His .307 average and .448 on-base percentage show that he's been one of the toughest outs in college baseball this season.
As the Washington Post's Cavaliers Twitter account notes, Papi came within inches of giving Virginia the lead late in the game:
This wasn't a rare display of power for Papi; he has swatted 11 home runs on the season.
He also is well aware of the challenges he faces in this series. "Their pitching staff and their bullpen, they have a lot of great arms. Their offense has been very consistent this year. And they're very good at executing on offense and I think that's what we try to do," Papi told MLB.com's Jim Callis.
Papi is no stranger to the big moments this season. Look for him to make a big impact in Game 2 as the Cavaliers try to even up the series.