Tonight, Vanderbilt returns to the College World Series Finals for the third time since 2014. For Michigan, let’s just say man had not yet walked on the moon.
Still, it’s important to remember that none of the current Vandyboys were on the 2014 or 2015 team, so for each and every one of them, they’re CWS Finals rookies, as well.
Each team is undefeated in Omaha thus far (3-0). Tonight, that changes for one of them.
Though former Vanderbilt Assistant Coach Erik Bakich and his Michigan Wolverines are 49-20, knocked off the #1 overall seed UCLA Bruins in the Super Regionals, and just steamrolled Texas Tech 15-3 to advance to the Finals, they are the decided underdog. Beyond that, they’ve managed to win three games in Omaha whilst only using an unheard of three pitchers—Karl Kauffmann started games one and three, Jeff Criswell relieved him in both games, and tonight’s pitcher, LHP Tommy Henry tossed a complete game shutout to eliminate Florida State in game two.
With no days off in the finals, Bakich will have to severely amend his pitching strategy. If I had to guess now, those three pitchers will be slotted in the starting rotation, and I’d doubt Kauffmann will be able to pitch effectively until game three. You have to expect Vanderbilt’s meat grinder of an offense will be able to force Bakich to actually use his bullpen this series, as well.
For Vanderbilt, the rotation decision should be simple—Fellows in game one, Rocker in game two, and Hickman in game three (if necessary).
Vanderbilt should have a distinct advantage at the plate, of course. A quick comparison of their team offensive statistics for 2019:
Michigan: .281 AVG, .381 OBP, .447 SLG, 145 2B, 15 3B, 72 HR, and 6.91 runs per game.
Vanderbilt: .314 AVG, .415 OBP, .521 SLG, 162 2B, 19 3B, 97 HR, and 8.26 runs per game.
We are SEC regular season champions, SEC Tournament champions, the pre-season #1 team, steamrolled through our side of the bracket, have a murderer’s row for a lineup, a fantastic defense, a pitcher who has thrown the greatest game in college baseball history (statistically speaking), and the best closer in the whole damned game.
We are an unstoppable force, and tonight, we prove why the master is still greater than the student.
(please and thank you)