One ugly half-inning was enough to put the Virginia baseball team in an 0-1 hole against Vanderbilt in the finals of the College World Series in Omaha. But despite losing the first battle Monday night, The Wahoos aren't ready to concede the war.
"We fought. And there's not much else we could have done," junior second baseman Branden Cogswell said shortly after the Cavaliers' 9-8 loss. "I think a lot of guys are going to carry this into tomorrow, after reflecting on it tonight, and we'll play some good baseball."
UVa's early 2-0 lead disappeared as ace Nathan Kirby unraveled in the third inning of Monday's game. The Commodores scored all nine of their runs in that frame -- that included three bases-loaded walks from Kirby, a costly error by first baseman Mike Papi, and a bases-clearing double from Vandy's Tyler Campbell.
The Wahoos spent the rest of the night chipping away at the Commodores' lead, but ultimately that comeback came up a run short. UVa lost despite out-hitting Vandy 15-6, with five different Cavaliers putting up multi-hit games.
"Truly the bright spot is, that might be one of the best offensive days we've had all year," UVa coach Brian O'Connor said afterward. "And we had it on this stage, against an equally-as-talented pitching staff. So maybe there's some carry-over from that tomorrow. And you find a way to win tomorrow, and then it comes down to one game for the title."
Vandy can wrap up the best-of-three series with a second win Tuesday night. The Commodores will pitch first-round pick Tyler Beede (8-7, 3.80 ERA), who was roughed up for four runs on three hits in 3.2 innings in his last CWS start against UC-Irvine.
The Cavaliers will counter with sophomore lefty Brandon Waddell (9-3, 2.57 ERA). Waddell has a pair of wins in the NCAA Tournament, and a no-decision in UVa's 15-inning CWS win over TCU in his last start.
One of those NCAA wins came when the Cavaliers were facing elimination against Maryland in the super regionals.
"We go back to what we do as a team," Waddell said after Monday's loss. "We've been able to respond all year, so it's something that we have a lot of confidence in. We have a lot of confidence in the guys that we have. They're a good team, as are we. We know it's going to be a good game, but we think we can come back from it."
"He's going to attack them. He's going to throw strikes. And they're going to have to beat him," said O'Connor. "They're a really talented club, too. We're both here for it all. We both earned the right to be here. And I've got the confidence in the guy we're going to send out there tomorrow."
UVa is 2-0 in elimination games in this NCAA Tournament, with both wins coming after the Cavaliers fell behind Maryland 0-1 in that super regional series.
The Cavaliers have only lost back-to-back games once this season, and haven't lost games on consecutive days. They only lost one weekend series during the regular season.
"This team has responded after a loss all year, and I think it's really what has defined this ballclub," O'Connor said. "That we haven't had losing streaks. We've found a way to come back. And I think that will start again tomorrow, we'll respond positively."
"But this is a different stage. That's a different ballclub. They're a very good ballclub," said Cogswell. "You want to press reset. But in order to succeed, you've got to kind of take things from today. Especially the approach at the plate, and being loose and aggressive. You can't take anything for granted. We've still got to win two ballgames. But we're going to fight, and we're going to show what we're made of."