The new park in Omaha, I think somewhat purposefully, was built to encourage pitchers' duels. Low-scoring games offer the best drama baseball has to offer, and that means ratings and so on. So it came as a little bit of a surprise to me that 2012 and 2013 produced no walk-off wins in the College World Series. The last walk-off win belongs to South Carolina, against, you'll probably remember, UVa.
Armed with that knowledge, I may have been incorrect when I said Vengeance Tour '14 would have to come to a quick end for UVa to do anything worth doing in Omaha. Having been the victim of the last CWS walk-off, the Hoos appear bound and determine to wreak that emotional havoc upon all who get in their way. They toyed with Ole Miss, leaving runner after runner stranded in scoring position just to give the one-hit Rebels a fighting chance; then, TCU fans no doubt thinking (not incorrectly) that they had a great shot by throwing their ace starter, shutdown closer, and best middle reliever, the Hoos yanked the rug out again. No doubt this is all out of long-simmering rage over being booted out of the 13th inning the last time we saw this city.
Baseball becomes the second UVa team this year to reach heights it's never achieved, following in the footsteps of women's tennis. The Hoos will finish no worse than tied for third in the CWS, as two more teams will be shown the door before UVa plays its next game. This is not to focus on the negative, though; this team has positioned itself to play for the national championship, and has three more wins to the dogpile. They've taken the best shots that two of the best teams in the country had to offer; they one-hit the best-hitting team in the tourney and outpitched the (supposedly) best-pitching team in it. Perhaps it was no accident that UVa was the highest-seeded team in town. The story of the underdog favorite is a hackneyed one, but it's still fun if it's your own boys.
-- TCU's Cody Jones got the lion's share of the highlights for his diving catch, and it was a really nice one, but clearly, Brandon Downes had the more important web gem. Runners at the corners and one down for TCU could've been devastating. Instead the threat was snuffed out. And by the way, I don't actually disagree with the TCU baserunner's decision to try for third. "Never make the first or third out at third base" is a maxim that also implies the second out is forgivable. And I'm usually a fan of the idea of forcing the outfielder to make a really good throw. Usually they can't.
-- Whit Mayberry's outing was vintage Whit Mayberry. He doesn't have the stuff that Howard or Lewicki have, and he doesn't have the control that Waddell has, but Jeebus tap-dancing Christ on a cracker does that dude battle. Branden Kline is the only guy in recent memory I can think of who brought that much of an "I don't care how but I'm'a get this mufka out" mindset to the mound. Nobody's gonna get this analogy, but he reminds me a little bit of a right-handed Mike Maroth. That's a compliment even though I just compared Mayberry to the last 20-game loser in the majors. I think he could make a really good pitching coach once his pro career is over.
-- UVa actually has a little bit of an advantage that Vanderbilt - the other 2-0 team - does not have. Both UVa and Vandy next play on Friday. Irvine and Texas are playing tonight, and the winner will have a day of rest before playing Vandy. All four elimination-game teams got a rest day before that game, but TCU and Ole Miss will have to play us the day after their game. It goes without saying that we're looking for another marathon.
-- Baseball generates all kinds of really interesting facts. UVa has now played in the two longest games in TD Ameritrade CWS history. Nine whole innings were played without a run, spanning over three hours; the equivalent of a full scoreless game. UVa didn't have a single runner in between the two that scored to bookend that stretch. It was tied for the longest game in CWS history in any stadium.
-- Bring on the Friday rematch. You know I'm gonna like our pitching depth against anything either the Rebs or Frogs will have.