The 2019 College World Series finals are set. A Vanderbilt team that many expected to be in this spot takes on a Michigan team that was amongst the last four teams in the tournament.
Before Vanderbilt throws out the first pitch of the championship series Monday night, let’s break down a few numbers about both teams you should know.
The importance of scoring early at the College World Series
Michigan played Texas Tech in the first game of the 2019 CWS. The Wolverines scored a run in the first inning — something they have done in all three CWS wins — making them the first team with a run on the board in Omaha. That’s important: in two of the previous four seasons, the team that scored the first run in the CWS won the national championship. Prior to that, it hadn’t happened in since Texas’ CWS run in 1983.
The Wolverines, who have been the first team to score in each of its three games, are now 37-6 when they score first this season. Vanderbilt picked up 40 of its program-record 57 wins when scoring first, having lost just four times. The Commodores 40-4 record is the second-best winning percentage when scoring first, trailing only UCLA.
Winning in Omaha
Vanderbilt has won each of its first games in its first four trips to Omaha. With its victory over Louisville on Friday night, the Dores become the first school to reach the CWS finals three times during the TD Ameritrade Park Omaha era (2011-present). They have a chance to become the first program with two College World Series titles in this ballpark.
Michigan has entered two CWS finals without a loss and has won the national championship twice, first in 1953 and the second coming in 1962. The Wolverines are looking to restore the CWS tradition in the Big Ten. The conference claimed six College World Series championships between 1953 and 1966 has been in a drought ever since. Ohio State is the last Big Ten champ in 1966.
The SEC is the polar opposite. The conference has had a team in the CWS finals 11 of the last 12 seasons, and its most recent win came just two years ago when Florida defeated LSU in an all-SEC championship series.
Seeding in the College World Series
Seeding seems to be thrown out the window once you get to the NCAA tournament. UCLA continued to feel the bad luck of the No. 1 overall seeds, now winless in a CWS finals since Miami (FL) did it in 1999, the first year of the super regional format. Vanderbilt, seeded No. 2 nationally when the tournament began, is the highest seed to reach the CWS finals since Florida in 2011. Those Gators, also a two seed, were swept by South Carolina.
Michigan on the other hand, has gone from one of the last four in to two wins away from a CWS title. The Wolverines are just the fourth three (or lower) regional seed to reach the CWS finals under the current format. All three previous teams won the national championship: Virginia (3-seed) did it in 2015, the Cinderella Fresno State Bulldogs (4-seed) in 2008, and Oregon State (3-seed) in 2007.
Home runs aplenty in Omaha
Entering the 2019 College World Series, just one player had a multi-home run game since the tournament moved to TD Ameritrade Park. That was Michal Papierski of LSU in 2017. Vanderbilt and Michigan have added three players to the list.
Austin Martin drove in all three of Vanderbilt’s runs behind a two-home run performance in its opening round win, while Stephen Scott followed with a two-dinger game in the Dores’ second win. They are the first teammates to accomplish the feat in the same CWS since Cameron Rupp and Russell Moldenhaur of Texas did it in 2009.
Jimmy Kerr, who had a monster 4-for-6 performance in Michigan’s 15-3 defeat of Texas Tech to advance to the CWS finals also joins the exclusive club. He is the first Michigan Wolverine in eight College World Series trips to log a multi-homer game.