OMAHA, Neb. (VirginiaSports.com) – The Virginia baseball team won the 2015 NCAA National Championship with a 4-2 victory over Vanderbilt Wednesday evening in Game 3 of the College World Series Finals at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. In taking the series, two games to one, the Cavaliers (44-24) earned the first NCAA championship in program history while finishing off a remarkable postseason run in which UVa – a No. 3 regional seed – went 10-2 while becoming just the third No. 3 or 4 seed to win a CWS championship.
The national championship is the 23rd in Virginia Athletics history and the third for UVa this season (men’s soccer, men’s tennis). Virginia is the second ACC team to win an NCAA Baseball Championship and the first since Wake Forest in 1955.
“I'm just so proud of these guys,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “They hung together all year and got to this postseason. It's just amazing what a group of guys that stay together and play for each other and pick each other up and don't give up can accomplish. We're very, very proud of this championship and feel very, very fortunate. I said it out on the field, Vanderbilt's all class. Their team sat in that dugout for the entire presentation. That's certainly a classy program, and they do it right. We just feel fortunate that we found a way. Kenny Towns stepped up and (Brandon) Waddell and (Nathan) Kirby and (Pavin) Smith and so many different guys playing great defense. This is our first championship and one that these guys will never forget.”
Relief pitcher Josh Sborz was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after working 13 scoreless innings and earning three wins and a save in Omaha. Second baseman Ernie Clement (Fr., Rochester, N.Y.), shortstop Daniel Pinero (So., Toronto, Ontario), third baseman Kenny Towns (Sr., Burke, Va.) and starting pitcher Brandon Waddell (Jr., Houston, Texas) joined Sborz on the All-College World Series Team.
Virginia followed a familiar recipe for success: good pitching and defense as well as clutch hitting. In his third start in Omaha, Waddell (5-5) worked seven innings and allowed a pair of first-inning runs to go along with four hits and two walks while striking out a pair. He buckled down after his first-inning troubles and allowed just three baserunners over his final six frames while retiring the final 11 batters he faced. Making his school-record 53rd career start, Waddell started his fifth CWS game, which is tied for fifth most all time. UVa won all five of those starts.
Making his first relief appearance in two seasons, Nathan Kirby (Jr., Midlothian, Va.) struck out five batters over the final two innings to earn his first career save.
Freshman Pavin Smith (Jupiter, Fla.) hit a two-run homer as part of 2-for-3, three-RBI night, while fellow rookie Adam Haseley (Windermere, Fla.) was 2-for-3, scored two runs and was on base in four of his five plate appearances. Towns added an RBI single and also made a sensational diving play to end the fourth inning and save a run. Smith and Towns each had key two-out hits; in seven CWS games, the Cavaliers recorded 24 two-out hits which resulted in 15 two-out runs.
The second of five pitchers, Vanderbilt reliver John Kilichowski (3-4) took the loss after allowing the go-ahead run in the fifth inning. Starter Walker Buehler worked three-plus innings, allowing two earned runs, three hits and four walks while striking out three.
After UVa loaded the bases but did not score in the top of the first inning, Vanderbilt (51-21) put a pair of runs on the board in its half of the inning. Bryan Reynolds drew a leadoff walk and Rhett Wiseman followed with a double to left to put runners at second and third. Dansby Swanson grounded out to bring in a run, and Zander Wiel doubled down the left-field line to plate Wiseman.
Virginia tied the game in the top of the fourth, as Smith hit a two-run home run that just cleared the right-center field wall, scoring Towns, who had drawn a leadoff walk. The home run was Smith’s seventh of the season and his first career postseason long ball. It also was the first home run surrendered by the Vanderbilt pitching staff in the NCAA tournament.
UVa moved ahead for good in the fifth inning. Haseley drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a Pinero sacrifice and scored on Smith’s two-out single to left. The Cavaliers added an insurance run in the seventh when Towns ripped a two-out single to center to bring Haseley home.
2015 MEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM