OMAHA, Neb. -- What Vanderbilt did to hang on to win Game 1 of the CWS Finals the Dores couldn’t do to slam the door on Virginia in Game 2.
The pitching was wobbly, the defense wasn’t sharp and the offense sputtered as the Commodores lost 7-2 on Tuesday to force a winner-take-all Game 3.
First, the defense. Vanderbilt committed two errors in the game, but it was the plays it didn’t make that proved costly. Two infield hits, one to the pitcher and the other to shortstop, led to Virginia’s first run via a safety squeeze. The Cavaliers took the lead for good with three runs in the sixth. In that inning the Commodores failed to turn a double play and center fielder John Norwood’s diving attempt of Brandon Downes’ drive to right-center went off his glove for a triple.“I thought there were some plays that we may have been able to contain,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “They were big at the moment. I thought there were a couple of defensive plays we could have controlled. … They found areas in the field that we weren’t able to defend.”
Secondly, the pitching. Vanderbilt has been touched up for 15 runs and 28 hits in the first two games of the series. Commodores starter Tyler Beede, the 14th overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, allowed six runs in 6.2 innings. His 10 hits allowed tied a career high.
“[Virginia] did a nice job of hitting and running and advancing runners. They were aggressive at the time, and it seemed to work out for them,” Corbin said, who defended his battered staff. “We’re playing a good team. Playing a team that has a very high plus-minus. I mean, they don’t strike out. They walk. They put the ball in play. They have very good approaches at the plate. It’s a tough team to pitch against, but I have no issue with our pitching. None whatsoever."
Corbin said right-hander Carson Fulmer is most likely to get the ball to start Game 3. Fulmer matched a career-high with six walks in 4.1 innings against Texas on Saturday.
Finally, the offense. Vanderbilt held leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but for the second consecutive night the Commodores' offense was rendered mostly ineffective by Virginia pitching. Remember, Vanderbilt’s nine-run third inning in Game 1 was bolstered by five walks and an error.
On Tuesday, only one of its two runs was earned, and the Commodores managed just five hits against Cavaliers left-hander Brandon Waddell, who went the distance. In only two innings did Vanderbilt have two runners on base at the same time; it had a runner caught stealing after a pickoff attempt; and twice it grounded into inning-ending double plays.
“Well, Waddell threw a heck of a game. You have to give him a lot of credit. He basically suffocated our offense for most of the night, particularly as the game went on,” Corbin said.
Waddell retired 12 consecutive Commodores at one point; Zander Wiel’s walk in the ninth was Vandy’s first baserunner since in the fifth inning.
“They defended us well. We were making early contact and hitting into the teeth of the defense, and didn’t really make a good adjustment with [Waddell],” Corbin said. “You have to be able to use and stay inside the baseball and use the other side of the field. He didn’t allow us to do that.”
Vanderbilt’s 3-4-5 hitters -- Vince Conde, Wiel and Norwood -- are 2-for-21 in the CWS Finals. Norwood has the two hits, both coming Tuesday. Norwood was involved in both of Vandy’s scoring innings, with his walk and steal leading to a run in the second and an RBI double in the fourth. But he was also picked off second in an inning in which Vanderbilt failed to get down a bunt and struck out twice.
“Didn’t get a bunt down and we got picked off so the inning crashed,” Corbin said.
And so did Vanderbilt’s hope of sweeping the championship series.