On Sunday afternoon, the #3 Tennessee Volunteers (50-16) and Jackson Fryburger Virginia Cavaliers (35-25) will meet in their CWS opener at 2 p.m. ET at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The Volunteers are coming off a hot streak, winning all five games in their regional and super regional tournament held in Knoxville. The Cavaliers, however, have battled their way through their regional and super regional tournament in Columbia, where they went 6-2.
In their two-game Super Regional, Tennessee swept LSU with a combined 19 runs scored, 18 hits, and six home runs. With Lindsey Nelson Stadium sold out and a watch party alongside the left field side of the stadium, the Vols did not disappoint in any way, dominating on the mound and at the plate. On the mound, Chad Dallas improved to 11-1 with 12 strikeouts in game one, and Blade Tidwell improved to 10-3 after seven innings pitched in game two. The Vols’ hot bats and strong pitching arms have allowed them to remain undefeated going into Omaha, where they will look to continue their success.
In the Columbia Super Regional, Virginia edged out DBU after losing the opening game and winning the following two. Throughout the series, Virginia averaged just over seven hits a game with six total home runs and 14 runs scored. In the final game of the series, Virginia was trailing DBU in the bottom of the 7th until freshman Kyle Teel hit a grand slam to put the Cavs ahead 5-2. With their pitching and hitting teetering back and forth throughout the series, the Cavs got their bats hot at the right moment to keep their season alive.
With this CWS appearance being Tennessee’s first since 2005 and Virginia’s first since 2015, both teams are no doubt excited and ready to play for their chance at being the champions. It will be interesting to see how each team handles playing in a bigger ballpark at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. With the wind usually blowing in from the outfield, base hits and shots through the gaps will be what teams are looking for while in Omaha.
Tennessee is favored in this matchup because of its strong and assertive offense as well as its impressive pitching. With the ballpark playing deeper, eyes will be looking towards Tennessee’s offense to see whether they can continue their impressive stats (4th in the nation for HRs and 16 HRs in the NCAA tournament). With four All-Americans (Jake Rucker, Liam Spence, Chad Dallas, and Sean Hunley) and the newly crowned NCBWA Coach of the Year (Tony Vitello) on the Vols roster, things are looking good for the Vols.
Although Tennessee is the favorite, Virginia will be a tough team. Coach Brian O’Connor is looking to coach his team through the CWS and get another championship, just as he did in the 2015 season. Recently, in winning all six of their elimination games in the NCAA Tournament, they have shown that they can find a way to win whether it be their pitching or their hitting. Virginia has homered in 13 straight games and has had many wins this season by coming from behind in the late innings. On the mound, the Cavaliers have Andrew Abbott, who has the second lowest ERA in the ACC with 3.02. While coming in as underdogs, Virginia is a tough team that can compete against any other in Omaha.
In this double elimination series, the winner of Sunday’s game will advance to play either Texas or Mississippi State on Tuesday.
How to Watch
The matchup between Tennessee and Virginia can be watched or streamed on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2.