For the next two nights (at least), Omaha, Nebraska, is the center of the baseball world. That’s because it’s almost time to crown a new College World Series champion.
It’s been a long road to the 2015 CWS finals, but two teams have finally made it. The best-of-three championship round begins tonight, with defending champs Vanderbilt facing Virginia in a rematch of last season’s title series.
Here’s how we got here:
The path through the CWS tournament is intricate. There are 16 regional sites around the country, and each has a mini tournament. The winning 16 teams go to eight super regionals where teams face off in a best-of-three series. The eight winners of those super regionals go to the College World Series. Those eight teams are placed in two groups, they play each other in a double-elimination tournament, and the winners of each group face off in a final best-of-three championship series.
So far, the 2015 CWS has been one of the most exciting in years!
Miami knocked off Arkansas on a thrilling walk-off by Jacob Heyward. Cal-State Fullerton fell to Vanderbilt off freshman hero Jeren Kendall’s game-winning home run to right field. Vandy also broke up TCU’s Alex Young’s no-hitter bid with a thrilling seventh-inning Zander Wiel home run that would later decide the game. Florida made history with an 11-run inning against Miami. LSU fell to TCU who, in turn, lost again to Vanderbilt, allowing the Commodores to advance to the finals. In a tight game, Virginia squeaked past Florida to clinch the other spot in the title series.
The Vanderbilt-Virginia matchup is a repeat of last year’s CWS final. Vandy won the tight series, but needed all three games. So you know Virginia will be looking for payback.
Each of these teams has a star freshman that could be a game changer. For Vanderbilt, it’s outfielder Jeren Kendall. This season, Kendall hit .291 and made only four errors in the field. He also won the annual Omaha Challenge. Virginia, meanwhile, has first baseman Pavin Smith, who hit a stellar .313 while driving in 41 runs this year. Smith was also an asset in the field as he had a .987 fielding percentage while committing only five errors.
Heading into the series, Vanderbilt certainly has the edge. The squad is equipped with all the qualities needed to win another championship. The Commodores have top pitchers in Carson Fulmer, Walker Buehler, and Philip Pfeifer. They have the best college player in the nation in star shortstop Dansby Swanson. They’re team batting average is an astounding .292.
But Virginia has one thing going for them you can’t ignore: Revenge. They were so close to victory last year, and they have a burning desire that will be hard to quench.
Be sure to tune in tonight at 8 p.m. as the hot-hitting Virginia Cavaliers attempt to extract revenge on the lights-out pitchers of the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Photo: Ted Kirk/AP (Towns), Mike Theiler/AP (Wiel)