Commodores edge Cavaliers in taut Finals opener
Virginia falls behind 9-2, almost comes all the way back
Virginia and Vanderbilt set the record for runs scored at TD Ameritrade Park in a College World Series game Monday night in the Finals’ opening act.
The rollicking contest, highlighted by the Commodores’ nine-run third inning and the No. 3 Cavaliers’ slow and steady comeback, featured 17 runs and 21 hits, but it was Vanderbilt that ultimately emerged with a 9-8 victory.
Virginia (52-15, 22-8 ACC) scored first in a ballgame that lasted nearly four hours. Every pitcher but one — Commodore junior closer Adam Ravenelle — hurled at least 40 pitches. The Cavaliers jumped on Vanderbilt sophomore right-hander Walker Buehler for three hits and two runs in the first inning.
Virginia sophomore left-hander Nathan Kirby dominated out of the gate, striking out two Commodore batters in a quick first inning. He looked every bit the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year as he pitched a perfect second inning, as well.
But the narrative changed in the third. Kirby lost his hold on the strike zone, walking a career-high five Commodores as fastball after fastball missed outside. Junior first baseman Mike Papi compounded Virginia’s nightmare frame when he bobbled sophomore right fielder Rhett Wiseman’s groundball.
Redshirt senior reliever Whit Mayberry finished the inning for Virginia, but not before Vanderbilt (50-20, 17-13 SEC) had grabbed a commanding 9-2 lead.
Then came the rally — spirited and prolonged.
Virginia got back three runs in its own half of the third. The Cavaliers nearly scored two more, as junior catcher Nate Irving grounded out with two on and two out.
Irving soon made amends, doubling home junior center fielder Brandon Downes in the fifth after the latter’s two-out triple. Freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero plated Irving two batters later to whittle the lead to two runs.
Senior reliever Austin Young held the Vanderbilt bats to a hit and two walks in a crucial 50-pitch appearance that kept the score at 9-7. Virginia scored another run in the eighth inning when sophomore right fielder Joe McCarthy shot a groundball back at Commodore freshman reliever John Kilichowski to bring home junior second baseman Branden Cogswell.
Ravenelle shut the door in the ninth, retiring the Cavaliers on five pitches.
Game Two of the best-of-three championship series starts Tuesday night at 8 p.m.