OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The offense has been there for Virginia in the College World Series finals. The pitching is back now, too.
With the Cavaliers’ season on the line, Brandon Waddell pitched a five-hit complete game in a 7-2 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night that forced a decisive Game 3.
The teams meet Wednesday night at TD Ameritrade Park, where the winner will earn its school’s first national championship in baseball.
Projected starting pitchers are Josh Sborz (6-4) for Virginia against Carson Fulmer (7-1).
Waddell’s first nine-inning complete game came a night after Nathan Kirby imploded in Vanderbilt’s nine-run third inning in a 9-8 loss to the Commodores on Monday. Waddell seemed to get better as the game went on, with the fourth inning a turning point.
Vanderbilt (50-21) held a 2-1 lead and had a chance to add to it with John Norwood on second base. But Rhett Wiseman couldn’t get a bunt down to move him over, and he struck out looking. Waddell then picked off Norwood at second.
“The pick play was put on, and we just executed,” Waddell said. “It was a huge momentum swing. They go from a guy in scoring position to nobody on. So I think it was something that was definitely big for us.”
Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said his Cavaliers (53-15) responded like he thought they would after Monday’s loss.
“I know the bounce-back this team has shown all year long,” O’Connor said. “You know when you go through a season with a team, you start to learn and understand what they’re made of and what the fiber of a team is. I told the team after the game last night that there is no panic in this ballclub. Come out tonight and play a great ball game, and we’d have a chance to win.”
Waddell (10-3), who pitched a solid seven innings with no decision against TCU a week ago, was even better against the Commodores. He walked three and struck out five.
“He basically suffocated our offense for most of the night,” Vandy coach Tim Corbin said.
The sophomore left-hander didn’t allow a hit after Norwood’s double until the ninth inning. He retired 12 in a row before he issued a walk with two outs in the ninth.
“I didn’t know how long I’d be in the game,” Waddell said. “I tried to keep going until they told me to stop.”
Waddell didn’t stop until he threw 115 pitches and Wiseman had grounded out to end the game. Teammates rushed out of the dugout to congratulate him for his first conventional complete game. He was credited with one for going six innings in a rain-shortened game against Monmouth in March, and it was the Virginia staff’s third of the season.
“I felt good from the start,” Waddell said. “I felt in the beginning I was trying to do too much, put too much behind the ball, spraying it here and there. I settled in later in the game. I put the pitches where I needed to.”
Kenny Towns and John La Prise drove in two runs apiece, and the Cavaliers finished with 13 hits against Tyler Beede (8-8) and three relievers. Virginia has a total of 15 runs and 28 hits the last two games.
Through five innings, Beede looked sharp in limiting the Cavaliers to one run on three hits and two walks. The 14th overall draft pick by the San Francisco Giants had been struggling with his control and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in his previous CWS start against UC Irvine.
He left with two outs in the seventh after allowing six runs on 10 hits and three walks.
“Execution was a little poor the third and fourth times through the lineup,” Beede said. “I was working with only two pitches, fastball and changeup. It was kind of 50-50. They were finding holes. They’re a talented hitting team.”
The Cavaliers will be playing for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s first national title in baseball since Wake Forest in 1955. Vanderbilt will be going for the Southeastern Conference’s fourth championship in six years.