Okay StitchHeads, we have our first “sittin’ pretty” team of the College World Series. It’s Anchors aweigh for the Commodores of Vanderbilt as they advance to Friday’s bracket championship game with a 6-4 win over UC Irvine tonight. We also have our first team packing their gear and heading home: the Louisville Cards. Gotta admit, not the first team I expected to be heading home from The O. But this is one unpredictable post-season so nothing goes as you script
Here’s some of the highlights of today’s action.
Here is the top things to know according to Jeremy Mills’, who is both the ESPN research guru that I find to be so freakin’ valuable and the mastermind behind the most used site in college baseball, D1baseball.com.
TOP THINGS TO KNOW
1. Vanderbilt beat UC Irvine 6-4 to improve to 2-0 in the College World Series and earn three days off. The Commodores are averaging 5.5 runs per game in the CWS, while the rest of the field is averaging just 2.4 runs per game.
2. In Monday’s elimination game, Texas survived by beating Louisville 4-1. The Longhorns scored four runs despite not recording a hit with runners in scoring position, crossing the plate on two sacrifice flies, a groundout and an error.
3. Texas isn’t the only team that’s struggling with runners in scoring position. So far teams are hitting .189 with runners in scoring position in the CWS, and the overall batting average of .218 would be the lowest in the aluminum bat era.
4. There is one other offensive category that is on record pace this year – sacrifice bunts. There have already been 17 sacrifices in six games, on pace to shatter the record of 39 set in 1955 (with wood bats).
5. Tuesday’s elimination game features Texas Tech and Ole Miss. Whichever team wins will snap a long drought – the Red Raiders have never won a CWS game while the Rebels last win came in 1969.
6. In the nightcap, national seeds Virginia and TCU will look to join Vanderbilt at 2-0. Brandon Finnegan, who was selected 17th overall by the Royals in this month’s MLB Draft, will start for TCU; he enters the game fifth in the NCAA in strikeouts with a chance to move to the top of the list Tuesday.
- There have been a total of 35 runs scored in the first six games, and for the first time since aluminum bats were introduced in 1974, there hasn’t been a home run through six games.
- The hitting has been especially bad with runners in scoring position. So far, teams are hitting just .189 (20-106) with RISP and the .218 (81-371) overall clip would be the lowest in the aluminum bat era.
- Vanderbilt had five stolen bases tonight, including two apiece from Zander Weil and John Norwood. For the total post-season of 20 stolen bases. The other seven teams in the field have a combined total of five.
Texas – 001 110 001 – 4 7 0
L’ville – 000 000 010 – 1 4 3
WP: Parker French, 7-5
LP: Anthony Kidston, 9-1
Save: Travis Duke, 1
IN A NUTSHELL
The mistakes killed Louisville. And Texas did what a good team does, takes advantage of them.
Texas played very solidly, nothing flashy. You know, pitched really well, defended their asses off and connected not the difference-making plays. It wasn’t from a lack of Louisville hitting the ball, they put the screws to the ball a number of times, but it seemed like it always found a Longhorn glove, and in some cases the Cards just fell into bad luck by hitting a screamer right at a Burnt Orange fielder, then getting a baserunner picked off for a double play.
As coach Augie Garrido alluded to in the post-game, this game was controlled by the pitching of Parker French, who went 7.1 innings and gave up just four hits and the lone run. He was followed by Travis Duke’s 1.2 hitless pitching to close things out. Parkers’ 7.1 innings of work ties his season high for a single outing and improved him to 2-0, 1.35 ERA in the NCAA Tournament so far.
On the other side, Anthony Kidston also posted a season-high with his 8.0 innings of work, but suffered his first career loss ever in a Cardinals uniform, coming in with a mark of 14-0 in 26 career appearances.
There’s no better place to end a great season than in Omaha at the College World Series. But for Louisville, it’s still a little bittersweet as they’ve now lost all four games played in the new downtown stadium and have lost five straight games overall dating back to their 1-2 performance in 2007.
WHAT IT MEANS.
The Longhorns get some new wind in their sails, knowing they’ve got a deep arms corps which could keep them in this tournament, as long as the sticks can keep out-hitting their opponents.
As for the Cards, it’s a second straight 0-and-2 appearance in Omaha. But unlike last season, where they lost all three weekend starters on the mound, coach Dan McDonnell’s charges will have all three back for next year in Kyle Funkhouser, Anthony Kidston and Josh Rogers. Also, five of the nine position players should also come back to L-town. So shed no teams for the red and black.
Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell:
“This was a fun year. Really proud that these five seniors kept the culture alive. These guys wanted to maintain that high level, that level of excellence. It was a fun year. You have to be thankful. Sometimes you have to stop and reelect. I’m not really good at that because I’m a recruiter, I’m always worried about tomorrow. So I need to take a moment sometimes and stop and reflect, because what a fun year. This was a lot of fun.”
“We’ll be back again. As it says in the end of the movie Gladiator, ‘You will see us again. But not yet.”
- Texas head coach Augie Garrido:
“This is the fourth time we’ve played in that first game. And it’s always a game of nerves. I’ve never liked playing in that first game. Once you get here the celebration continues. It’s a celebration about what you accomplished and it’s easy to buy into that and it’s hard to refocus and get competitive. It’s hard to flip that switch. I think we played much better today. Yesterday we had a practice and we weren’t really practicing baseball skills. We weren’t trying to fix anything because it wasn’t broken. What we said was to play our game and they did.”
A few more images from today’s first game…
Vanderbilt – 200 030 100 – 6 11 0
U.C. Irvine – 040 000 000 – 4 3 1
WP: Walker Buehler, 12-2
LP: Elliot Surrey, 8-5
Time of Game: 3-hours, 45-minutes
IN A NUTSHELL
When I was in Louisiana a couple weeks ago during the last weekend of the regular season, I talked with Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Tony Robichaux. He said his main goal defensively and pitching-wise was to stay away from giving teams a 3-run inning.
Tonight, both teams suffered 3+ run innings by their opponent, but the big difference was that Vanderbilt’s came second in the sequence and they also had Walker Buehler to back it up. The Commodore relief pitcher, who came into tonight with 17 appearances and 15 of those being starting assignments, was stout in cleaning up the mess that Tyler Beede left.
Beede, the 14th overall pick in last week’s MLB draft, was a little on the messy side, giving up all four Anteater runs on the strength of three hits, three walks and three hit batsmen. But Buehler threw 5.1 innings and gave up just no runs on no hits with seven Ks. To start his stint, Buehler set down his first nine Anteater batters and 12 of his first 13.
That effort allowed VU to let their offense come back around, getting the lead back with three runs in the 5th inning and an insurance run in the 7th.
Irvine had three hits and four runs in the 2nd inning, but other than that the Eaters had zero runs on zero hits in 8.0 innings.
KEY STAT NO. 2:
- A matter of a few inches.
As I tweeted on the ESPNU twitter feed, you could hear an audible groan from the press box when Dansby Swanson put a charge into a ball in the 5th inning and the ball came a few inches from squeezing over for a home run. You know the writers in here are wanting some semblance of a power display, even if it has to be a fence-scraper.
WHAT IT MEANS.
Irvine will fall down to the loser’s bracket and will now move on to play a rematch with Texas on Wednesday at 7pm Omaha time.
Vandy gets to kick back and take a load off, playing their next scheduled game on Friday against the winner of the game mentioned above. And by the time Friday comes around, they’ll have all their arms rested and ready for the remainder of the week.
A few more images from tonight’s lone game…
Okay StitchHeads, I would write a little bit more about the games and about the deaths of Tony Gwynn and Casey Kasem in the last two days, but I’ve got to get some sleep at some point. So I’ll pick those stories up later. Til then, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.