OMAHA, Neb. (WTVF) — When the College World Series finals begin Monday night it will be a matchup of two teams in Vanderbilt and Michigan that will be fighting for the same thing, but from two very different perspectives.
Vanderbilt has been to the College World Series four times in the past nine years, which is the most by any program since T.D. Ameritrade Park opened in 2011. This will be the Commodores third appearance in the best-of-three finals series in the past six years.
“We're certainly thankful to be in Omaha at this juncture right now,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “When you can get to this point of the season and put yourself in positions to be at the pinnacle of the end of the season, it's certainly special.”
While Vandy seeks its second national title since 2014, Michigan is eyeing its first title since 1962. Back then first baseman Jimmy Kerr’s grandfather was a star on the team.
Also unlike Vanderbilt, this Michigan team wasn’t expected to be here. The Wolverines were one of the last four teams into the NCAA Tournament, but emerged as the no. 3 seed to win a Corvallis Regional that included defending national champion Oregon State and then went on to beat no. 1 overall seed UCLA in the Super Regional just to get to Omaha.
“I’ve heard Coach Corbin say many times, ‘If you go once, you go twice, just from your players knowing how to get there,’” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We don't know how to get here. We've never been.”
Michigan has looked like a team that belongs since reaching the College World Series. The Wolverines are 3-0 in Omaha, including a 15-3 drubbing of Texas Tech Friday behind two home runs from Kerr.
The maize and blue hope to prove that northern baseball, specifically Big Ten Baseball can compete on the big stage and contend for national titles.
“Coach Bakich imparts on us that you don't have go south to be an Omaha program,” Kerr said. “We're going to build one right here in Michigan. Just the mindset that he kind of gives to the team is that we're not just playing for Big Ten championships, we're playing on a national level.”
In order to breakthrough for that title Michigan will have to knock off a Vanderbilt team that has been one of the championship favorites all year. The Commodores were the preseason no. 1 team in the country and have won a school record 57 games including the SEC’s regular season and tournament titles.
Now the Vandy Boys have a chance to cap off a truly special season with two more wins. But they don’t look at their status as heavy favorites entering the finals as any more pressure than they’ve faced all year.
Just treat it like any other game really,” shortstop Ethan Paul said Sunday. “You know, we've trained a lot. We've been through experiences that have taught us a lot, and it's just another game. You can't try and put too much weight on it. You've just got to go in and play quality baseball.”