The biggest adjustment the Virginia baseball team made between the first two games of the College World Series Finals might have been to Derek Fisher's facial hair.
The junior outfielder trimmed the beard he'd been growing throughout the postseason into a mustache that he jokingly called "a caterpillar." And after Tuesday's 7-2 UVa win over Vanderbilt to force a deciding Game 3 on Wednesday, Fisher used his new look as an example of how the Cavaliers have approached their run at a national title.
"Some guys went and dyed their hair. Taylor Myers has got this black caterpillar on his lip," Fisher said. "It's unbelievable, but it shows that we're not tense. And that's something that we've definitely brought to the clubhouse, probably this last month-and-a-half. Just to have fun playing baseball."
"It's a fun group to coach," UVa coach Brian O'Connor said after Tuesday's win. "They enjoy being around each other. I can tell you, as coaches, we don't smother them. We kind of let them do their own thing. And as young men, I'm sure they appreciate that, and they can be themselves and their personalities can come out."
"And I really think that's most important at this time of the year, because the stakes are so high," O'Connor added. "So when the stakes are so high, they've got to be loose and enjoy what they're doing, and let the chips fall where they may."
The stage is now set for a one-game championship Wednesday night at TD Ameritrade Park. It will mark the first time since 2009 that the best-of-three CWS Finals have come down to a deciding third game.
Both teams will be playing for the first national championship in their program's history.
"It really hasn't hit us yet. But it's just cool and exciting," said UVa sophomore infielder John La Prise. "Playing in such a great stadium, the College World Series championship game, final game. It's just kind of surreal, and we're just excited and ready for tomorrow."
"It's very special, in the way that we could possibly win the last game of the season," said UVa junior first baseman Mike Papi. "And that doesn't happen for many teams. Only one. So we'll be working our butts off tomorrow to bring all we've got."
O'Connor said following Tuesday's win that he expected to go with sophomore right-hander Josh Sborz Wednesday night against the Commodores. Sborz is 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament, giving up just one unearned run in 12 postseason innings.
The Cavaliers will also have right-handers Artie Lewicki and Nick Howard available out of the bullpen. Those two combined with Sborz to beat Ole Miss on Saturday to finish bracket play for the Cavaliers. Lewicki and Howard have combined to throw 24 2/3 shutout innings for UVa this postseason.
"Our coaches do a great job of just telling us, just to play the game," said Papi. "It's just another baseball game. I know it kind of sounds a little bit cliche, but you've got to go pitch-by-pitch and just play the game."
"That's what you dream to do," said Fisher. "First off to get to Omaha. But once you punch your ticket, you've got to understand that you're still here for something. And we've done a very good job of that. That's a credit to the coaches, to the rest of the guys. You can't really ask for a different way to handle this entire situation."
"Those juniors that got drafted, and the three seniors that we have, this will be their last opportunity to play for the University of Virginia. And isn't it fortunate that they're playing for a national championship," said O'Connor. "I'm just so proud of them, all those guys that won't be with us next year. They've done so much for this program, and I look forward to them competing tomorrow night."