Pitching, defense, and a series of strategically timed bunts because TD Ameritrade
Rosenblatt doesn't play too well for three-run homers.
OK, so Earl Weaver may not have said it exactly that way. But with the college baseball season down to its final two teams and (at most) its final three games, pitching and defense have made the difference.
Vanderbilt's staff forms the backbone of the team. They've posted a 3.12 ERA in the postseason, struck out 10 batters for every 9 innings played, and held opponents' batting average right on the .200 Mendoza line. The 'Dores run with a four-man rotation of Tyler Beede (8-7, 3.80 ERA), Walker Buehler (12-2, 2.27), Tyler Ferguson (8-4, 2.72), and Carson Fulmer (7-1, 2.00). Beede and Buehler are the top candidates to start tonight, while Fulmer is most likely out until a possible Game 3.
Beede was picked 14th overall in last month's MLB Amateur Draft by the San Francisco Giants (after being picked 21st overall by the Blue Jays coming out of high school in 2011). His fastball runs in the low 90s, topping out around 95, backed up by a changeup in the mid-80s and a high-70s, big-breaking curve. Beede was dominant in the Nashville Regional but has struggled a bit in Omaha.
If Commodores' coach Tim Corbin turns to Buehler (Buehler? Buehler?) instead, he'll be riding a player that gave him 5-plus innings of no-hit baseball in Omaha already. Buehler's masterpiece against UC-Irvine followed his strong play on the big stage: he went 8 innings in the SEC Tournament against Tennessee and gave up only 2 runs while striking out five. Buehler doesn't have Beede's size (6'1, 160 compared to Beede's 6'4, 215) but his recent results may push him higher in the Vanderbilt pecking order.
Vanderbilt places lots of confidence in its bullpen, with good reason: four guys in the pen have pitched at least 20 innings during the regular season and maintained ERAs under 2.00. Hayden Stone is the big strikeout guy (76 Ks in only 56 innings), while Brian Miller is second on the team in saves behind Carson Fulmer (who floated between rotation and relief). Adam Ravenelle (any relation to this guy?) has held opponents to a .154 batting average this postseason: the exact same mark as his regular-season average-against.
While all these numbers seem daunting, some perspective: Vandy's team ERA is more than twice as high as UVa's. Their .200 average-against is 12 points higher than our .188. Four of our pitchers have yet to allow an earned run in the postseason. If the championship series comes down to pitching, Kuhn's boys have shown us that they are up to the task.