OMAHA, Neb. -- Sneaky good might be the best way to describe Virginia sophomore lefthanded pitcher Brandon Waddell.
Surely, when Vanderbilt got through Virginia ace lefthanded pitcher Nathan Kirby in the CWS Finals opener, it had to feel confident going into Game 2. Who wouldn't be confident? Kirby was a first-team All-American and has electric overall stuff with a fastball up to 94-95 and a typically dominant curveball. Much of Kirby's undoing in the series opener was his own fault, but Vanderbilt also got some key hits.
The Commodores simply didn't have those opportunities against Waddell on Tuesday night, as the talented lefty put together the first nine-inning complete game of his collegiate career, lifting the Cavaliers on his shoulders on the way to an impressive 7-2 victory.
"He's just so different than Kirby. He's been going in that three hole for us most of the year, and here's a guy who's going in our three hole much of the year who was our No. 1 guy last year, so he's just so experienced and ready," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. "He knows how to pitch, and he's so much of a different look than most of the pitchers we throw out there."
If the Commodores were going to get to the head-strong Waddell, it was going to have to be early in the game. Waddell had a clean first inning, working around a single, allowed a run in the second inning, and allowed another run in the fourth inning on an RBI double by John Norwood. But the Commodores had some other chances and were unable to capitalize, as Waddell, for instance, finished out the fourth inning -- after Norwood's RBI double -- with a pair of strikeouts, one of them on a beautiful 80 mph slider.
From that point on, Waddell was extremely impressive. He got another strikeout on an 83 mph slider to begin the fifth inning, and walked Vandy nine-hole hitter Tyler Campbell. However, Waddell buckled down and avoided any potential jam by inducing a 4-6-3 double play from Vandy leadoff hitter Dansby Swanson.
Waddell proceeded to retire 12-straight batters on the way to the complete game, showing a steady three-pitch mix, with a fastball up to 91-92, along with a good changeup, and of course, his best secondary of the night, the 80-83 mph slider. He finished the night striking out five, walking three and allowing just two runs, one earned, on five hits, while also throwing 115 pitches.
"I thought he changed speeds really well and pitched to the defense. I thought he did a very nice job of that," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "We were making early contact and hitting into the teeth of the defense, and didn't really make a good adjustment to him.
"Now, it's not easy. That kid was throwing a good fastball and throwing to both sides of the plate," he continued. "He's decelerating the baseball with a changeup and throwing the breaking ball. He's a three-pitch, four-pitch guy, and you just really have to stay inside and use the other side of the field."
While the Commodores were never able to figure out Waddell, the same can't be said for Vanderbilt righthanded pitcher Tyler Beede. Beede, who entered the contest with some pressure after a poor performance his last time out here in Omaha, looked to be in good shape in the early innings.
Beede was very good his first two innings against the Virginia lineup. He went 1-2-3 in the first and second frames, tallying a strikeout in the second on a 93 mph fastball. However, with Beede throwing predominantly a two-pitch mix, a low-80s changeup, and not having particularly good feel for his curveball, you got the sense Virginia's offensive lineup was just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
The Cavaliers versatile offensive lineup finally did pounce in sixth with three runs, thanks in part to outfielder Brandon Downes, who had a big night and contributed an RBI triple in the inning. Virginia added two more runs in the seventh inning on a Kenny Towns two-RBI single, stretching its lead to 6-2, and never looking back with Waddell in the zone on the mound.
"I thought throughout the game we were getting pretty good swings off of him. Everyone was seeing the ball pretty well," Virginia's Kenny Towns, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, said. "As the game was going on, he was starting to leave some pitches up, and he gave us some opportunities."
While Kirby, a very likely first-round pick in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, and Beede, a first-round pick to the San Francisco Giants in this year's draft, were unable to put together impressive starts in these CWS Finals, the quiet, unassuming, Waddell went out there, with Virginia's season on the line, and pieced together arguably his most impressive start of the season.
Virginia may or may not win the series finale and the national title, but Waddell put his team on his shoulders facing elimination.
Perhaps "sneaky" good no longer.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Player of the game: Brandon Waddell, lhp, Virginia
Turning point: Vanderbilt looked like a team potentially on the way to its first national championship the first five innings against Virginia, carrying a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning. However, the feeling in the press box was that the Cavaliers eventually would put all the pieces together offensively at some point. That happened in the sixth, as the Cavaliers grabbed a 4-2 lead, thanks in part to a Brandon Downes RBI triple. Virginia seized the momentum in the contest and never looked back.
Did you know? Virginia has outhit Vanderbilt 28-11 in the CWS Finals thus far, and that's not the only impressive stat with this club. Virginia has a total of 55 hits in the College World Series, while also possessing a 44-1 record when leading after eight innings.