LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Louisville is getting Duke. Louisville is getting Alabama. Louisville is getting Notre Dame.
Louisville will travel to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series this weekend. Sunday the Cardinals will play college baseball’s equivalent of Duke (men’s basketball), Alabama (football) or Notre Dame (women’s basketball) — the pre-tournament favorite.
That’s the plot.
Here is the fine print — Duke, Alabama and Notre Dame all lost.
It’s been a daunting year for favorites in Division I college sports. Zion Williamson could not get Duke past Michigan State. Clemson blitzed Alabama in college football’s national championship game. The Notre Dame women could not go back-to-back against Baylor.
Vanderbilt is the team to beat in Omaha, especially in the Cards’ four-team pod that also includes Mississippi State and Auburn. But the top seeded team at the College World Series has failed to win in Omaha four consecutive seasons.
Louisville is eighth in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Three teams in Omaha are ranked ahead of coach Dan McDonnell’s squad — Vanderbilt (No. 1 in RPI); Mississippi (No. 3) and Arkansas (No. 5). The Cardinals are booked to play Vandy at 2 p.m. Sunday in T.D. Ameritrade Park.
Here are Five Reasons Vandy is The Team To Beat:
1. The Commodores are rolling.
Vanderbilt has won 14 of its last 15 games. Vanderbilt has won 27 of its last 29. Vanderbilt has not lost back-to-back games since the first weekend in April when the Commodores stumbled against Georgia, 8-3 and 3-1.
2. The Commodores have played worry-free baseball.
Winning does not describe what coach Tim Corbin’s team has been doing. Vandy delivered video game numbers.
During its 27-2 stretch, Vandy has won by six runs or more 13 times, by eight or more eight times.
Old school baseball guys argue that one-run victories are the trademark of a good team.
Of Vandy’s last 27 wins, two have been by one run. Who needs Mariano Rivera when 24 of Vandy’s last 27 wins have been by three runs or more?
3. Vandy can hit.
Corbin has built the Vandy brand on pitching. Former Ballard star Jeremy Sowers was one of his first aces. David Price pitched at Vandy. So did Sonny Gray, Mike Minor, Walker Buehler, Carson Fulmer and others.
This Vandy team hits like a Southeastern Conference all-star team. The Commodores rank fourth in the nation in runs per game at 8.5 and they're tied for sixth in hits per game at 11.2.
Vandy has averaged 8.2 runs per game while winning five of six NCAA Tournament games.
4. JJ Bleday
With Oregon State and catcher Adley Rutschman as well as California with first baseman Andrew Vaughn missing from Omaha, Vanderbilt outfield JJ Bleday is the highest-ranked player competing in the tournament.
Drafted fourth overall by Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins last week, Bleday led college baseball in home runs, delivering 26 in 59 games while reaching base in nearly 47 percent of his at bats. Bleday is expected to skip rookie ball and report directly to Class A as soon as he signs.
5. Record setters
Vandy has already set program records in four offensive categories: home runs, walks, runs batted in and runs.
That will happen for a team that has scored in double figures 26 times.
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