OMAHA, Neb. — Carson Fulmer combined with two relievers on a four-hitter, Will Toffey’s two-run double broke a scoreless tie in the sixth, and defending national champion Vanderbilt opened the College World Series finals with a 5-1 victory over Virginia on Monday night.
The Commodores (51-19) need one more win, Tuesday or Wednesday, to become the seventh team to win back-to-back national titles, and the third to do it in the last 10 years.
Fulmer (14-2) struck out eight, walked two and hit two batters in his 20th consecutive start of at least five innings. He outdueled Virginia starter Connor Jones (7-3), who allowed three hits over five shutout innings before the Commodores got to him for two runs in the sixth.
Virginia (42-24), the Commodores’ finals opponent for the second straight year, scored in the ninth to end the Vandy bullpen’s streak of 22 shutout innings.
Fulmer, the No. 8 overall draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, retired nine in a row from the fifth to eighth inning before Adam Haseley bounced a ball over the left-center fence for a ground-rule double. Four of his eight strikeouts ended innings.
Jones held Vanderbilt in check until Zander Wiel singled with two outs in the sixth and Bryan Reynolds walked. Both scored when Toffey, who was 1 for 11 in the CWS, sliced a ball down the left-field line for a double.
Vandy added three more runs in the seventh. Ro Coleman hit an RBI single and, after Kevin Doherty relieved Jones, came home when Dansby Swanson bounced a ball off the wall in the right-field corner for a double. Reynolds’ RBI single made it 5-0.
Ben Bowden came on for Fulmer with two outs and two runners on in the eighth and got Matt Thaiss to fly out.
Virginia’s run came against Kyle Wright. Kenny Towns singled leading off the ninth, took second on a wild pitch and came home on pinch hitter Jack Gerstenmaier’s base hit.
Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft two weeks ago, was 1 for 14 in the CWS before he got hits on two of his last three at-bats.
This is the first finals rematch since Oregon State and North Carolina met in 2006-07.
The most recent back-to-back champions were South Carolina in 2010-11 and Oregon State in 2006-07.