With Dansby Swanson's bat waking up for the first time in Omaha and Carson Fulmer pitching the way you would expect Carson Fulmer to pitch in an important game, the Vanderbilt Commodores used a two-run sixth inning and a three-run seventh to beat the Virginia Cavaliers, 5-1, and win the crucial first game of the College World Series finals. One more victory will gave Vanderbilt back-to-back national titles in baseball -- the school's first two titles in any major college sport, and half of its titles period. (The other two are in women's tennis and bowling.)
Swanson might not have been the hero of the game offensively, but by going 2-for-4 with a double, he seemed to once again assume the leadership role after essentially disappearing during most of the team's trip to Omaha. And while Fulmer had some rocky moments during the game -- he hit two batters, both times with a runner on first base -- he pitched 7.2 innings of mostly great baseball, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight.
The win might be even more significant than it looks at first. Since the NCAA went to the best-of-three format for the finals in 2003, the team to win the first game has won the overall series 10 of 12 times. In seven of those instances, the series was a two-game sweep. The last team to lose the first game and win the championship was Fresno State in 2008.
Philip Pfeifer will take the ball for Vanderbilt on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET with the chance to close things out. Virginia has not named its starter for that game yet. Whoever it is will have a very tall task on his hands.