Nationals Arm Race

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CWS Group Play review; Final set

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Here’s a look at our CWS coverage so far in 2014:

Now lets review the group play in Omaha.  Compared to the blitz of games during regionals (100+ games in four days) and super-regionals (where there were nearly 40 games in a long weekend), covering the CWS is pedestrian; there’s just a couple of games a day for nearly two weeks.

My pre-CWS predictions are with Vanderbilt from the top and UVA from the bottom, but UVA’s path through to the CWS finals is a lot tougher.  Lets see how things played out.

In the Top Bracket (UC Irvine, Vanderbilt, Louisville, and Texas):

UC Irvine continued their surprising run this post-season by getting 3 runs late on Texas’ starter Nathan Thornhill and taking the first game 3-1.  Meanwhile, Vanderbilt got to wild Louisville starter Kyle Funkhowser behind their flame-throwing converted closer Carson Fulmer and took their first game 5-3

In the first elimination game, Texas handed Louisville’s Anthony Kidston his first loss of the year and put the Cardinals 2-and-out 4-1.  In the winner’s bracket game, UC Irvine tagged Vanderbilt’s stud Tyler Beede for four runs early and knocked him out in the 4th, but Walker Buehler relieved and threw 5+ innings of no-hit ball as Vanderbilt’s offense stormed back to take the winner’s bracket game 6-4.  This sets up Vanderbilt nicely for the rest of the tournament and confirms them as the early favorite to advance to the final.  In an elimination game, Texas got a solo homer from C.J. Hinojosa and 8+ shutout innings from middle-reliever Chad Hollingsworth to eliminate UC Irvine 1-0 in a matchup of two of the games most tenured and respected coaches Augie Garido and Mike Gillespie, with nearly 3,000 combined wins between them.  Texas must now beat Vanderbilt twice over the 6/20/14 weekend to advance to the CWS final.  Texas did their part in the first game, knocking Vanderbilt’s starter out before the first inning was complete and winning 4-0 to force a doe-or-die 6/21/14 game.  In that do-or-die game, Vanderbilt outlasted Texas with a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the 10th to advance 4-3.

In the Bottom Bracket (Texas Tech,Virginia, Ole Miss and TCU):

TCU saved their #1 starter and got by Texas Tech 3-2 in the opener, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th after not being able to touch TTU starter Chris Sadberry.  Texas Tech’s coach is probably kicking himself right now; Sadberry had given up just 3 hits through 7 innings and sat on 101 pitches; his reliever immediately coughed up the game.  Meanwhile, UVA’s Nathan Kirby pitched a gem in their opener, holding Ole Miss to just one hit over 7 innings and supp-1st rounder Mike Papi drove in the walk-off run as UVA won 2-1.  UVA’s work is cut out for them though, having to face first rounder Brandon Finnegan in the winner’s bracket game.  In that marquee TCU-UVA matchup, UVA couldn’t do much against Finnegan (8ip, 1 ER) but their own co-ace Brandon Waddell also held the Horned Frogs in check (7ip, 1ER).  The game went into extras .. many extra innings, finally won by UVA in the 15th 3-2 (tying the longest CWS game ever).  UVA’s closer Nick Howard threw 4 innings and 60 pitches, which makes me wonder if we’ll be hearing complaints about his usage (perhaps not; he was a starter his first two years at UVA).  Then, In the loser’s bracket, Ole Miss put Texas Tech out in a close 2-1 game, then similarly eliminated TCU 6-4.  Ole Miss must now beat UVA twice over the 6/20/14 weekend to advance to the CWS final.  And they couldn’t do it: behind 8 innings from their #3 and #4 starters (Josh Sborz and Artie Lewicki UVA topped Ole Miss 4-1 to advance to the CWS finals.

CWS finals: #13 Vanderbilt versus #3 UVA.

Game 1 on June 23rd, Game 2 on June 24th and (if necessary) Game 3 on June 25th.

Kirby versus Beede in game 1; Kirby sits on 8 days of rest after throwing just 85 pitches on June 15th.  Vanderbilt burned their ace Fulmer in the bracket final, leaving Vanderbilt at a definite disadvantage in the pitching matchup.  In game 2, UVA has Waddell set to go with 6 days rest while Vanderbilt has to go with their #3.  Sborz/Lewicki could tandem pitch a deciding game 3 for UVA with four full days rest if neither guy is used in the first two games, while Vanderbilt could bring back Fulmer on 3 days rest (to the likely ire of pitch count scouts, despite the fact that he only threw 90 pitches on 6/21).  UVA’s pitching is setup just about as good as you could hope for and have the bats to match; you have to think they’re the favorites.

Resources: has all the CWS results in easy-to-consume fashion.  Their live scoreboard is great and is up-to-the-minute all throughout the weekend with links to the ESPN box scores. has a ton of great data on college players.  And the Washington Post is providing great coverage of UVA’s trek through the college playoffs.