Philip Pfeifer deserved better in what may have been his final start as a Vanderbilt Commodore. Bad luck and an ill-timed error at first base sent him off as the losing pitcher in yesterday's 3-0 Virginia win at the College World Series.
Now, the two teams will play a Wednesday night rubber match that will decide the 2015 national champion.
Clutch hitting and stingy pitching have defined this series so far. Both teams have used two-out rallies to crack otherwise unflappable starters en route to a victory. Vanderbilt struck first when Will Toffey broke open a 0-0 tie in the sixth inning of an eventual 5-1 Commodore win in game one. Virginia returned the favor in game two, loading the bases with two outs against Pfeifer in the sixth inning and then delivering a pair of base hits that gave the Cavaliers a 3-0 victory. That leads to tonight's showdown; a winner-takes-all affair that offers Vandy a chance to repeat and UVA a chance for redemption.
The Cavs still have ace Nathan Kirby on their bench, but it's still unclear whether he'll see any action after getting lit up by Florida in his return from a lat injury last week. If Virginia passes on Kirby, that will mean big innings for lefty Brandon Waddell. Waddell pitched seven scoreless frames against the Gators in his last outing and could be the latest pitcher to stymie the Commodore bats at the College World Series.
Vanderbilt will counter with Walker Buehler, the #24 pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Buehler was on point in his last outing; he limited TCU to only one run while striking out eight batters in a win. He's only pitched twice in the NCAA Tournament, but the 'Dores have won those games by a combined score of 28-1. He'll try to keep that streak alive in order to bring home the fourth national championship in school history tonight.
Game three will start at 7pm CST and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. You can follow Joe Fisher's Vanderbilt-flavored call on 95.9 FM in Nashville or online thanks to VUCommodores.com. And, as always, you can join us in the GameThread here to discuss if/when the Commodores' luck will return in Omaha.
Vanderbilt: Walker Buehler (5-2, 2.85 ERA, 89 Ks in 85.1 innings)
Virginia: Brandon Waddell (4-5, 4.02, 87 in 103)
with a probable appearance from Nathan Kirby (5-3, 2.61, 76 in 62)