CWS Top Teams Bracket, Round Two: 2015 Virginia vs. 2014 VanderbiltCollege World Series
Today would have been the day eight of the 2020 College World Series. Since we don’t have live baseball to watch, we’re taking a look back at the greatest CWS teams of the modern 64-team NCAA tournament era. In conjunction with NCAA.com, we’ve made our picks for the 32 best Omaha teams since 1999 and seeded them into a bracket.
Now it’s your turn. Each day, we’ll present a few matchups for fans to vote on, as we work our way through the bracket to determine the greatest College World Series team of the super regional era.
2015 Virginia Cavaliers (44-24 overall; CWS champion)
No. 31 seed
Just a year after falling just short of a national title against Vanderbilt, the much more unlikely team actually finished the job the next season. The Cavaliers put together an average regular season in 2015, making the NCAA tournament after going .500 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Because of that, the Cavaliers had to do it the hard way — they had to begin the postseason on the road at the Lake Elsinore, Calif., regional. There, the Cavaliers defeated No. 2 seed USC before getting into the driver’s seat with a 3-1 win over San Diego State. UVa. finished the job with a 14-10 win over USC to advance to the super regional round. The Cavaliers got some luck on the other side of the bracket and hosted the Super Regional round against Maryland. The ‘Hoos swept Maryland to advance to the College World Series.
In Omaha, the Cavaliers defeated Arkansas and Florida to begin the tournament, outscoring the two teams 6-3 in the first two games. Florida got even with the Cavaliers in the next meeting before Virginia advanced to the CWS Finals with a 5-4 win. Virginia, aiming for redemption against Vanderbilt, lost the first game to the Commodores before pitching at an extremely high level the final two games to win the series and the program’s first national title. It also was the ACC’s first national title since Wake Forest accomplished the feat back in 1955.
Virginia finished the tournament ranked third in team batting average (.248) and third in team ERA (3.25), while they also were third in fielding percentage (.989). Danny Pinero led the Cavaliers at the plate with a .391 average, while on the mound, Josh Sborz was unblemished in four appearances and Brandon Waddell had a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings, along with a .179 OBA.
2014 Vanderbilt Commodores (51-21 overall; CWS champion)
No. 15 seed
Tim Corbin’s program had experienced a wealth of success before winning the national title in 2014 but had fallen just short of the grand prize until that point. The Commodores had an interesting year in the Southeastern Conference, though, finishing the regular season sixth in the conference standings — though less than two games out of third place. Vandy also went 1-2 at the SEC tournament before getting rolling in the Nashville Regional. There, the Commodores went 3-0 with a win over Xavier and a pair of wins over Oregon — outscoring the two teams by a combined 21-4. Vandy went on the road in Super Regional action to take on Tyler Jay and Illinois. There, the ‘Dores and Illini split the first two games before VU overpowered them, 12-5, in the final game to punch a ticket to Omaha.
Once in Omaha, the Commodores defeated Louisville and UC Irvine before dropping a tough contest to Texas. However, Vandy bounced back to win 4-3 the next night to advance to the CWS Finals. VU and Virginia split the first two games of the Finals before the ‘Dores won the national title with a narrow, 3-2, win. Vandy had an interesting set of statistics in Omaha that year. The Commodores finished the tournament hitting .231 as a team (second-best) and had a 4.29 staff ERA (worst in the field of eight). Top overall draft pick Dansby Swanson and Bryan Reynolds — both big leaguers — finished the 2014 CWS with batting averages over .300, while outfielder Rhett Wiseman had a strong showing in Omaha that year, too, with a .308 average. John Norwood ended the tourney with a team-best .400 average and .484 OBP. On the mound, big leaguers Tyler Beede and Walker Buehler finished that tourney with ERAs of 8.71 and 5.40, respectively, while Carson Fulmer had success. Buehler has since involved into one of the premier pitchers in the Big Leagues.
This Vanderbilt team was rich with talent and will forever be known as the first champion at VU.
How They Match Up: The ironic thing about the back-to-back CWS Finals matchups between Vanderbilt and Virginia is that the underdog won both matchups. The Cavaliers were preseason No. 1 in 2014 and were the team to beat all season long, while Vandy was the No. 6 seed in the SEC tournament, hosted a regional but didn’t land a national seed — but the Commodores won that first matchup in Omaha. A year later, Vandy was preseason No. 1 and widely regarded as the team to beat all season long, while Virginia barely snuck into a regional as a No. 3 seed — but pulled off a big upset against the ‘Dores in Omaha. So this matchup features the two less talented clubs out of those four, but these are the ones that actually finished the job. The 2014 Commodores certainly had the better season and were more talent-rich than the 2015 Cavaliers, and they’d be clear favorites in this matchup. But as those two years showed us, being the favorite doesn’t necessarily equate to winning when it’s all on the line.
The ironic thing about the back-to-back CWS Finals matchups between Vanderbilt and Virginia is that the underdog won both matchups.
Who takes this matchup?
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 20, 2020