CHARLOTTESVILLE- After earning the number one team preseason ranking in NCAA Men’s DI Baseball, the University of Virginia Cavaliers entered their 2013-2014 season with an enormous target on their back. Although the expectations were high and the team was under an enormous amount of pressure, the Cavaliers performance on the field through the course of the season demonstrated that they were highly deserving of that top preseason ranking. After winning both the NCAA Charlottesville Regional, along with the Charlottesville Super Regional, the Cavaliers advanced to the 2014 Men’s College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska as the number three national seed with a 49-14 season record.
I conducted an interview with the 2014 sophomore left-handed pitcher, Nathan Kirby, from the Virginia Cavaliers and asked him to reflect on the experiences that he and his team had during the 2013- 2014 season. When asked how he felt about coming into the pre-season as the number one ranked team, Kirby explained that he was “more excited than anything.” Along with excitement, Kirby also explained that he was “personally really nervous because he was thrown into a starting position” and that being tossed into this role put a lot of pressure on him because “the starter has a major role in determining the game.”
The Virginia Cavalier’s 2014 trip to Omaha marked the third time in program history that the Cavaliers had made an appearance in the Men’s College World Series. After going 3-0 in their first three games of the tournament, defeating Ole Miss 2-1, TCU 3-2, and then Ole Miss again 4-1, the Virginia Cavaliers advanced to the College World Series championship final for the first time in program history. The Virginia Cavaliers were set to play the Vanderbilt Commodores in the final championship where a best of three series would decide the national champion. Similar to the Cavaliers, this was the Commodores first time making it to the final championship series of the College World Series. “It still hasn’t sunk in,” Kirby replied when asked about how it felt to be a member of the Virginia Cavalier’s first team to reach the CWS final series. “I knew we were going to have a good team but we had to put it all together. We had a rough start but we kept fighting, and that’s been our story all year.”
On June 23, in the first game of the Men’s College World Series Finals, the Vanderbilt Commodores were down 2-0 initially after the Virginia Cavaliers scored in the first inning. The Commodores rallied and took a lead in the top of the third inning; scoring nine runs after a few costly walks and defensive mishaps. After digging deep and nearly coming back, the Cavaliers fell short and were defeated by the Commodores 9-8 in the first game of the CWS championship series.
On June 24, the Virginia Cavaliers and the Vanderbilt Commodores went head to head again in the second game of the championship final. The stakes were high; the Cavaliers faced the chance of elimination while the Commodores were just one win away from taking home the national title. After an aggressive pitching performance from the Virginia sophomore Brandon Waddell, the Cavaliers took the second game of the championship series 7-2.
Game three on June 25 served as the tiebreaker between the Cavaliers and the Commodores that would be the deciding factor of the 2014 DI Men’s College World Series. Through the first eight innings the Cavaliers and the Commodores were tied 2-2 until Vanderbilt’s John Norwood hit a solo homerun to break the tie and push Vanderbilt into a 3-2 lead over Virginia. The Cavaliers were unable to answer back in the ninth inning, which led to the Vanderbilt Commodores taking game three of the series along with the 2014 Men’s College World Series Championship title.
Although experiencing a loss in a national championship final is never easy, when asked if he was proud of the Virginia Cavaliers and the season they had overall, Nathan Kirby said, “Yes, I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way.” Outside of baseball, Kirby enjoys drawing, playing soccer, and the movie Caddyshack.