Virginia edges Vanderbilt in CWS Finals, wins maiden national championship

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Virginia dogpiles on the infield grass at TD Ameritrade Park after the final out of the ninth inning, which came on a wicked slider from junior lefty Nathan Kirby. 

The Virginia baseball team captured its maiden national championship Wednesday night in Omaha with a 4-2 win against Vanderbilt at TD Ameritrade Park. The Cavaliers (44-24, 15-15) — in danger of missing the ACC tournament earlier this season — edged the Commodores (51-21, 21-10 SEC) for the second time in two nights, completing an improbable trek to the title.

Junior left-handers Brandon Waddell and Nathan Kirby starred for Virginia, yielding a combined five hits and three walks while striking out seven. Both pitchers took the mound on short rest — Waddell started Saturday’s 5-4 win against Florida, while Kirby worked the day before — and nonetheless excelled.

Waddell ceded two runs in the first inning, when Vanderbilt sophomore center fielder Bryan Reynolds walked leading off and junior right fielder Rhett Wiseman doubled to move him two bases closer to home. Junior shortstop Dansby Swanson notched an RBI groundout before junior first baseman Zander Wiel’s two-bagger gave the Commodores another run.

The Cavaliers countered with authority in the fourth, drawing even on freshman first baseman Pavin Smith’s two-run homer to right field. Smith struck again just an inning later, when his single to left scored freshman center fielder Adam Haseley from second base for the go-ahead run.

Waddell improved as the game wore on, seizing command with 11 consecutive outs between the fourth and seventh innings. Kirby took over in the eighth with the top of the Commodore order due up and delivered by striking out Reynolds, Swanson and Wiel — all on sliders and all swinging.

Senior Kenny Towns knocked in Virginia’s final run in the seventh inning with a two-out single to center. The Burke, Virginia native turned heads earlier in the ballgame with an acrobatic, diving stop at third base.

Virginia became the first ACC team to win the national championship since Wake Forest in 1955. The Cavaliers avenged their loss to Vanderbilt in last year’s championship series while becoming the third team to win an NCAA title after receiving a three or four seed in the regional round.

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