The Vanderbilt Commodores salute their fans as they advance to their third national title series in six years.
2019 College World Series: Day Six In Pictures
College World Series
OMAHA, Nebr. — And then there were two.
One of which was TOTALLY expected (Hello Vanderbilt, you Terminators you). And one that was not expected at all (Northern baseball? Pfft, it’s always horrible… Oh wait, here’s Michigan).
It’s been a historic week in Omaha. Mike Martin finally coached his last game here in Omaha. All the games were wafer-thin close (except for one on Friday), the Vanderbilt whistler finally got forced into stifling himself and most surprisingly, Michigan will return to the national championship round for the first time since 1962, when the Wolverines went 4-and-1, winning the title from Santa Clara in a 15-inning game for the ages which absolutely none of us know about.
Today saw both unbeaten teams in bracket play prevail to give the College World Series its first matchups of unbeatens in Omaha since UCLA and Mississippi State squared off with perfect records in the CWS back in 2013.
The Wolverines not only make a surprising visit to the championship round but they also had a surprisingly easy win over Texas Tech to advance, by a score of 15-3. It was neck-and-neck for a while but the Big Blue only went scoreless in one of their eight frames, playing dominant baseball while also collecting 14 hits, 12 walks and two hit batsmen to turn this from an early deficit into a certifiable boat race.
In the nightcap, Vanderbilt got a dominant performance from Mason Hickman (6.0 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs) to outlast Louisville’s dominant performance from freshman starter Luke Smith (8.1 innings, four hits, three runs, 10 Ks) in edging the Cardinals 3-2 with some ninth inning magic. VU trailed the Cards 2-1 going into the top of the ninth inning. On top of that, coming into the game, Louisville was 45-0 when leading after eight innings. How remarkable is THAT? But the Commodores plated a pair of ninth inning runs thanks to RBI hits from veterans Ethan Paul and Pat DeMarco to pull out an impressive 3-and-0 run in Omaha heading to the championship series.
So the two teams take the next two days off – do some laundry boys – and will reconvene on Monday night at 6:05pm to fight out the final best-of-three in the 2019 college baseball season. I’ll have some more thoughts on the matchup in my final edition of Off The Top Of My Head coming up this weekend. Until then, check out some of the images and stories from Friday’s two games…
Some additional images from Friday’s two semifinal games…
The Maize & Blue had a bunch of these celebratory scenes on Friday due to the 15-3 football score. Here, Joe Donovan (a really cool #0) gets fives as he returns to the dugout with another marker on the board for the Wolverines.
In addition to his two home runs that he hit at the plate, first baseman Jimmy Kerr also displayed some really solid glove work in the field.
Kerr was joined in the golden glove-work department by second baseman Ako Thomas, who has made stunning defensive plays as a dirtbagger all week long for the Fighting Harbaughs.
Two-hole hitter Jesse Franklin had a pair of two-out, two-run hits to help pace the offense in the win over Texas Tech. In other words, the dude was major league clutch on Friday.
MUCH more graceful than that #NonTop10 slide into third last week, Jordan Nwogu shimmies into home to provide more misery for the Texas Tech team.
Texas Tech players feel the pain of losing out in Omaha once again. But it should be noted how they have now gone to TD Ameritrade Park in four of the past six years and maybe, just maybe, establishing themselves as the top program in the Lone Star State. (Yes, yes, all apologies to TCU)
Freshman Luke Smith made his 10th start of the season on the mound and turned it into an instant classic, while also playing the role of the wrestling bad guy to the hilt.
Although he didn’t get the win, Commodore starter Mason Hickman’s 6.0, 2-hit effort shouldn’t go without mention.
“Oh God, don’t slip up. Don’t slip up!”
Speaking of pitching that was worthy of high marks, VU closer Tyler Brown set the school record with his 17th save of the season on Friday night.
Louisville, kept dormant all game long, emerged in the bottom of the seventh with the go-ahead run here by Henry Davis.
Looking like the FTD Florist logo here. Although Jake Eder was the one who gave up the two runs to the Cardinals, he was still credited with his second win of the season due to his 2.0 innings of work.
Things got testy after the eighth inning with Smith getting all lippy at the Vanderbilt batters with a series of four-letter words, while precariously holding on to a 2-1 lead.
… this lead to Cards coach Dan McDonnell getting a warning from home plate umpire Adam Dowdy.
In the ninth, with Smith still on the mound, Ethan Paul notched an RBI double to the right field corner to tie the game at 2-2.
Say what you want about freshman Luke Smith, but he nearly gave us a Kevin Abel-esque performance on Friday, giving the Cardinals a chance to beat Vanderbilt. But he learned you can’t hold down the Commodores for long.
Pat DeMarco strokes the game-winning hit (Eric Sorenson)
… and of course the Commodores weren’t going to let Smith forget that it was on his watch that Louisville lost the lead.
In the end, the pain was palpable. But it was a great season for Louisville that came inches short of playing for all the marbles here in Omaha. In the final words of Dan McDonnell in the postgame press conference, “We’ll be back.”