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Anthony Chiusano | NCAA.com | June 21, 2019

Vanderbilt vs. Louisville: Preview, prediction for Friday's CWS game

Louisville sends Mississippi State home, 4-3

Four teams remain at the 2019 College World Series. Louisville will play Vanderbilt in the nightcap of Friday's two national semifinal games.

Here's what to expect Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

2019 College World Series: Vanderbilt vs. Louisville | TV schedule, time, how to watch

Vanderbilt and Louisville are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. ET Friday following the first game between Michigan and Texas Tech at 2 p.m. ET. Here's when and how to watch Vanderbilt vs. Louisville.

Friday, June 21: Vanderbilt vs. Louisville | 7 p.m. ET on ESPN | Live stats 📊 | TD Ameritrade Park Omaha 
Saturday, June 22 (if necessary): Vanderbilt vs. Louisville | TBD on ESPN | TD Ameritrade Park Omaha 

What's at stake at the College World Series on Friday

Vanderbilt advances to the College World Series finals with a win. Louisville must beat the Commodores Friday and then again Saturday to advance to its first national championship series.

Vanderbilt is 2-0 in the CWS with wins over Louisville, 3-1, and Mississippi State, 6-3. Austin Martin and Stephen Scott have both had a multi-homer game and Vandy's starting pitching has surrendered just two runs in 13 innings of work.

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Louisville has won two straight in the losers' bracket following its opening loss to the Commodores on Sunday. The Cardinals defeated Auburn 5-3 on Wednesday and walked off winners against Mississippi State on Thursday. Louisville needed a two-run ninth-inning rally, bookended by Drew Campbell's game-winning hit, to knock off the Bulldogs.

The Cardinals have won two games in College World Series play for the first time in program history. If they get by Vanderbilt twice in two days, they will play for their first national title. Vanderbilt made the championship series in both 2014 and 2015, winning the title in '14.

JJ Bleday continues his hot hitting in Omaha

Vanderbilt vs. Louisville pitching matchup

Louisville will turn to Luke Smith for his 2019 College World Series debut Friday night. Vanderbilt will likely counter with sophomore Mason Hickman, though coach Tim Corbin hasn't confirmed yet.

Smith hasn't pitched since June 2 in regionals against Illinois State. The junior righty is 6-0 with a 4.37 ERA in 2019. In that last start against the Redbirds, Smith tossed a season-high 8.1 innings, striking out seven and allowing two runs to help the Cardinals stave off elimination.

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"Everything happens for a reason, and Luke pitching that great game in the regionals gives him and gives our team the confidence to let's go out there and compete, and we get to play another great team [Friday] night," Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said Thursday.

Hickman also sports a perfect record (8-0, 2.23 ERA) for Vanderbilt. He last pitched in super regionals June 9 against Duke, throwing four innings in Vandy's Game 3 win to clinch a spot in the College World Series. With a fresh bullpen, and ace Drake Fellows (13-1, 3.97 ERA) likely waiting in the wings if Saturday's game is necessary, Hickman could have a short leash.

The Commodores have only used three relievers in their two games after Fellows and Kumar Rocker each delivered strong starts.

College World Series semifinals: Players to watch

Vanderbilt put out the same lineup in both of its wins so far in the College World Series. Louisville has done the same, with the exception of starting Zeke Pinkham at catcher over Henry Davis on Wednesday night against Mississippi State. Here's the projected starting lineup for Friday night:

Vanderbilt BATTING ORDER Louisville
Austin Martin (3B) 1 Lucas Dunn (CF)
JJ Bleday (RF) 2 Logan Wyatt (1B)
Ethan Paul (SS) 3 Tyler Fitzgerald (SS)
Philip Clarke (C) 4 Alex Binelas (3B)
Pat DeMarco (CF) 5 Jake Snider (LF)
Stephen Scott (LF) 6 Danny Oriente (DH)
Harrison Ray (2B) 7 Drew Campbell (RF)
Ty Duvall (DH) 8 Justin Lavey (2B)
Julian Infante (1B) 9 Henry Davis (C)

Player to watch from Vanderbilt: Austin Martin is tearing the cover off the ball this postseason with four homers, tied for the NCAA tournament lead. He went deep twice against Louisville in the CWS opener, including a lead-off shot in the bottom of the first. For the season, Martin is batting a team-high .409 with 10 homers. 

Player to watch from Louisville: Drew Campbell's been getting it done in both areas for Louisville here in Omaha. He showed off his defensive skills against Auburn with a laser throw from right field to catch a runner out at home and later followed with a nice diving grab on a sinking liner in shallow right. At the plate, Campbell went 3-for-4 with the walk-off single Thursday night against Mississippi State. He gives the Cardinals' lineup some depth in the 7-hole.

Watch Louisville come from behind and walk off against Mississippi St.

Vanderbilt vs. Louisville prediction

Vanderbilt is well-rested and rolling with its 97-homer (and counting) offense. Louisville has grinded its way to this point with three wins in four days, including a postponed game that started Tuesday and finished Wednesday and a two-run rally in the ninth last night.

The road hasn't been particularly easy for Louisville, but the Cardinals finally got over the hump to win two games in the CWS for the first time in program history. Beating Vanderbilt in back-to-back games is a different story, though.

Vanderbilt's lineup just doesn't have many cracks. If it's not Martin and JJ Bleday making the offense go at the top of the order, it's bottom-half guys like Scott or Julian Infante that have the potential for breakout games and coming up with clutch hits. 

The Commodores have won 33 of 36 and haven't lost two straight games since the first week of April.

Prediction: Vanderbilt wins 7-3 to advance to the 2019 College World Series championship series.

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Division I
College World Series
June 13-23/24, 2020
TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, NE

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