The Vanderbilt players rush out after the final out to celebrate.

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CWS Finals: Game Three In Pictures

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OMAHA — I don’t believe in soothsayers, crystal balls, gypsies or Ouija boards. But if you would have told me on Thursday February 14th that the future would behold the Vanderbilt Commodores winning the national title on June 26th, I would’ve said, “Yep, I totally believe it.”

Well, here we are 132 days later and look who is holding up the national championship trophy here in Omaha on a random Wednesday night? That’s right, the Anchor Down Boys themselves. On a night when the pitching matchup of VU’s Mason Hickman and UofM’s Karl Kauffmann took center stage, it was the Commodores who took home the big brass spittoon, beating Michigan 8-2 in what turned out to be a big boat race to the finish.

The Commodore celebration begins as pitcher Jake Eder and catcher Philip Clarke catch some air.

Kaufmann and his cohort Jeff Criswell were rested and ready to go, but it became apparent pretty early that Kauffmann’s third start of the CWS was not going to go as well as the previous two. Even after the Wolverine offense started the game with three straight singles to take a UofM-like 1-0 lead after half an inning, the Commodores would not be denied. 

VU came into the game with a .208 team batting average in the first five CWS games. But on Wednesday night, with all the pressure of the world on their shoulders, the Black and Old Gold posted nine hits and eight walks to make this game three less stressful than any game threes in recent memory. 

After a rough start, Mason Hickman settled in and teamed with reliever Jake Eder to hold the hot-hitting Wolverines to just three more hits after that first inning barrage. 

Also, Hickman would go on to toss 10 strikeouts in his 6.0 innings of work and Eder would add four more punchouts to account for Michigan’s 14 strikeouts. 

This is Vanderbilt’s second national title in five years, putting their stamp of national elite status on firm footing. And considering their incoming recruiting classes have been ranked No. 1 for seemingly the last six to seven years, this obviously is a Commodore program which isn’t going to fall off the map too far, despite losing a good bit of talent for next year. 

The dogpile starts for Vanderbilt.

As for Michigan? Well this was a watershed year for the Wolverines. Despite the preseason ranking of No. 17, they didn’t play like a top 20 team all season long. But once the post-season hit, it was Katie-bar-the-door as they played on a different level. They won the Regionals at Corvallis and then the Super Regionals at UCLA, doubly shocking the country in becoming just the second Big 10 team to make the Field of Eight in the promised land since 1984, when Barry Larkin and Chris Sabo were wandering the Wolverine defense. 

Michigan came within a game of winning the national championship. Michigan. Let that sink in for a minute.

Great season for both teams. Great finish for both teams too. 

PICS

Some more images from Wednesday’s title game…

Michigan couldn’t have asked for a better start, notching three straight singles to jump on VU with a 1-0 lead just nine pitches into the game.

 

… but Mason Hickman would eventually settle in and give up just one more hit to the Wolverines in his six innings of work. Hickman finished the season with a perfect 9-0 record and a 2.05 ERA, the best of any of the VU starting pitchers.

 

Pat DeMarco got the scoring started for Vandy with a second inning solo home run.

 

… and his Commodore teammates appreciated it, thankyaveramuch.

 

The Commodores started to put some distance between themselves and the Wolverines with a two-run single by Stephen Scott, which scored Philip Clarke (seen steaming around third here) and Ethan Paul.

 

I was bummed to see Austin Martin not have a great finish at the plate, ending the season just under .400 at .392. But I did snap this cool pic of him fouling off a ball on Wednesday night.

 

Sophomore centerfielder Jesse Franklin (7) will certainly be one of the players to watch for next season.

 

Lefty Jake Eder came on for 3.0 innings of relief to pick up his fourth save of the season for VU.

 

Yes there are pictures of Tim Corbin smiling out there in the ethos.

 

… and when was the last time you saw a team raise their coach up on their shoulders? I really dig this shot.

 

Michigan coach Erik Bakich had his players stick around and watch the post-game ceremony “out of respect to Vanderbilt” and also “there’s only one other team in the country that gets to watch that live. Everyone else is watching it on TV. That’s something that has value for our guys.”

 

Though he didn’t get to play in the championship game due to injury, Jordan Nwogu stopped to sign a few autographs before leaving the stadium. Just as I snapped this picture, a Michigan fan yelled out to him, “Can you play football now so you can help our team this fall?”

 

Hey, somebody found good use of that confetti.

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