When Vanderbilt defeated Michigan to win the 2019 College World Series, it became the ninth time the CWS title went down to Game 3 since the College World Series moved to a best-of-three format in 2003.
This is the second straight year that the CWS title came down to a winner-take-all game. After Michigan topped Vanderbilt 7-4 in Game 1, the Commodores responded with a Kumar Rocker-led 4-1 victory Tuesday in Game 2. It was all Vanderbilt in the decisive Game 3, winning 8-2.
Here's a look back at some of the biggest highlights from each Game 3 since the format was introduced in 2003.
2003: Rice def. Stanford, 14-2
The first Game 3 in College World Series title series history was a show of force from Rice. The Owls scored 14 runs on 14 hits, including seven in the bottom of the sixth, to win the school's first national championship in any sport.
2006: Oregon State def. UNC, 3-2
Our first one-run Game 3, Oregon State staved off elimination in Game 2 and then OSU's Bill Rowe capitalized on a throwing error in Game 3 to score what would prove to be the title-winning run.
2008: Fresno State def. Georgia, 6-1
March Madness may have created the Cinderella Run, but Fresno State's magical championship in 2008 went down in history with the best college underdog stories. Fresno out-dueled Georgia 19-10 in an outrageous Game 2 before taking Game 3, setting the record for most losses by a national champion (31) by refusing to quit when it mattered most.
2009: LSU def. Texas, 11-4
The Longhorns forced Game 3, but in the end the Tigers' potent offense was too much for Texas to handle. LSU's national title was the first of head coach Paul Mainieri's career.
2014: Vanderbilt def. Virginia, 3-2
John Norwood was the man of the evening for the Commodores when he blasted a solo home run past the left field fence in the bottom of the eighth, breaking up a 2-2 tie and providing the championship-winning run. It was Vanderbilt's first-ever baseball national title.
2015: Virginia def. Vanderbilt, 4-2
Rubber match! That's right: after four seasons without a Game 3, we were treated to two in a row -- featuring the same two teams! The second time around Virginia got its revenge against Vanderbilt, topping the 'Dores 4-2 for the Cavaliers' first national title.
2016: Coastal Carolina def. Arizona, 4-3
Three straight years, three straight first-time champs. This time, Coastal Carolina took an unorthodox route to Game 3 success, scoring four unearned runs on a pair of fielding errors to take home a dramatic 4-3 victory over Arizona. What a world.
2018: Oregon State def. Arkansas, 5-0
The Beavers were one pop-up in foul territory away from elimination in Game 2, but they capitalized on a Razorbacks mistake, rallied to force Game 3, and then handed the ball to Kevin Abel. The freshman pitcher threw a complete game shutout, the fourth in CWS history and the first in 25 years.
2019: Vanderbilt def. Michigan, 8-2
It was a classic David vs. Goliath scenario. The Vandy Boys — who began the season as the preseason No. 2 — entered Omaha as the highest remaining seed, ranked No. 2 national. Michigan went from the last four into the NCAA baseball tournament, all the way to the CWS finals, handing Vanderbilt a loss in Game 1. Another Kumar Rocker electric postseason start forced Game 3, where, despite Michigan striking first, Vanderbilt struck often, building a five-run lead by the fourth inning. The rest, as they say, was history.
A few extra notes about these Game 3s:
- Teams which forced Game 3 by winning Game 2 are 6-3 in the decisive final game, including Vanderbilt's most recent run.
- Average margin of victory for Game 3 winners is pretty sizable: 4.44 runs. This is, of course, thanks in large part to Rice's 12-run victory in 2003.
- Three of nine, or 33.3 percent, of Game 3s have decided by one run. It's not a coin-flip, but still: these are games you simply can't miss.
- Three of the last five Game 3s have been decided by two runs or fewer.