Time to Respond

by Zac Ellis

A barreling freight train of momentum had carried Michigan through the postseason and into the finals of the College World Series. On Monday, Vanderbilt learned of the Wolverines' red-hot trajectory firsthand. The Commodores fell to the Wolverines, 7-4, in Game 1 of the College World Series finals at TD Ameritrade Park.

Michigan sent two runs across in both of its first two innings for an early 4-0 run, forcing Vanderbilt to rally from the get-go. The Wolverines scattered 14 runs on the night, taking advantage of a sluggish start from Vandy starter Drake Fellows.

All the while, Michigan starter Tommy Henry kept the Dores’ bats at bay. He gave up just three earned runs on seven hits and 110 pitches through 8.1 innings. Afterward, Commodores’ head coach Tim Corbin said Henry was “the difference” for a Michigan team that kept its foot on the gas.

They were the aggressor, there was no doubt about that. Our guys know that."

Tim Corbin

Michigan entered Monday as the outsider looking in at Omaha. It had not played in the championship series of the College World Series since 1962. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, was in its third CWS finals since 2014.

But the Wolverines drew first blood at TD Ameritrade Park, which is why Vanderbilt enters Tuesday’s do-or-die Game 2 (6 p.m. CT on ESPN) in relatively unfamiliar territory. Monday marked the first time Vanderbilt had lost the opening game of a College World Series championship. In its previous two finals appearances in 2014 and ’15, Vanderbilt won the first game only to lose the second. The Dores won Game 3 and the NCAA title in ’14 before dropping the third matchup in ’15 for a runner-up finish, both years against Virginia.

Vanderbilt University Athletics - Official Athletics Website

The good news for this Vanderbilt team? These Dores have only dropped back-to-back games twice this season: March 16-17 at Texas A&M and April 6-7 at Georgia. More recently, Vanderbilt stood one game away from the end of its season following an 18-5 loss to Duke in the Nashville Super Regional. Vanderbilt responded in kind, with freshman Kumar Rocker delivering an historic performance with the program’s first individual no-hitter since 1971. That outing was the first of two straight wins over the Blue Devils that propelled the Commodores to Omaha.

With Rocker expected to take the mound in Game 2 on Tuesday, the Commodores said they plan to approach the matchup with a clean slate.

Each game has a different personality. [Michigan] obviously came out and got us… Tomorrow's going to be a new ballgame. It's going to be a different personality that game. We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing all year.

JJ Bleday, outfielder

Vanderbilt University Athletics - Official Athletics Website

In truth, Vanderbilt has not faced adversity much in 2019, the side effect of having won 33 of its last 36 games entering Monday. But Corbin nodded when asked if his team’s rally against Duke was an example of his team’s ability to respond.

On Tuesday, Vandy doesn’t have a choice. It’s win or go home.

“They’re an older group. They’ve been in a hole before,” Corbin said. “Not many times, but whether it’s during the course of the season or during the course of games, they’ve been able to navigate their way out of these situations.

“So, we’ll see. It’s a good opportunity.”

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