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Virginia and Vanderbilt face off tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern in a rematch of last year's College World Series finals. The Virginia story is well known -- a preseason favorite was metaphorically decimated by injuries, so much so that head coach Brian O'Connor had to reach into the club team reserves to find some warm and able bodies. As postseason neared, players began recovering from their injuries, and the team heated up at just the right time and, well, here we are.
Vanderbilt finished their regular season losing five of their final 11 games, including two to national seed No. 4 Florida. Their SEC title run was also cut short by none other than the Gators, but since then, the Commodores have been on fire.
They haven't lost since.
Vanderbilt has a perfect 8-0 record in NCAA post-season play. The top-seeded team of their regional, the Commodores defeated Lipscomb 9-1, Indiana 6-4, and Radford by a whopping 21-0. The Radford rout tied the NCAA record for the biggest margin of victory in a shutout in NCAA Tournament history.
In the Super Regionals, Vanderbilt traveled to national No. 6 seed Illinois. The Illini proved to be no trouble for the 'Dores, who recorded their 13th shutout of the season in Game 1, winning by a commanding 13-0 and giving Illinois LHP Kevin Duchene just his second loss of the season. Vanderbilt would sweep the series, winning Game 2 4-2,
In Omaha, Vandy, down 3-0 to Cal State Fullerton at the bottom of the sixth on Sunday night, received a little divine intervention when heavy thunderstorms rolled through the area, postponing the game until Monday afternoon. The Dores, down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, came up with a big two-run walk-off homer to stay in the winner's bracket.
Vanderbilt's second CWS game, against TCU was a battle of left handed pitchers. That is, until Vandy's Zander Wiel came up with a big solo home run to break up a no-hitter and produce the only run of the game. Following Vandy's 1-0 victory, TCU defeated and eliminated LSU to set up the rematch.
But the rematch would prove to be no match for the Horned Frogs, who were blasted 7-1 by the Commodores. But the margin of victory may not have even been the real storyline there. Bottom of the first with a runner on first and no outs, Vanderbilt's Rhett Wiseman took a fastball straight to the neck. Here's the video:
Just how bad was it? Here are some stills from after the game:
Yep, those really are laces you see there. But that wouldn't be the last you'd see of Wiseman that night. He came back to knock one straight out of the ballpark:
So, at 8-0, Vanderbilt looks to complete the magical postseason by taking two of three against Virginia. Virginia fans still remember the sting of last year's championship series as though it were yesterday, and the Hoos will be looking for the program's first-ever national championship after knocking at its door and being a perennial challenger for the past half-decade.
The series begins Monday night at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN. Stay here for continued coverage and analysis of the Hoos and the Dores.