The College World Series quickly has taken on a familiar feel for Vanderbilt.
The only first-time participant among the eight teams in Omaha, Neb., gets an opponent it knows well for its second contest.
Following a 7-3 victory Saturday over North Carolina in their CWS debut, the Commodores will face Southeastern Conference rival Florida 6 p.m. Monday in a matchup of opening day winners. It will be the fifth meeting of the season between the teams, who last played May 29 in the SEC Tournament title contest.
The Gators defeated Texas 8-4 in their opening contest later Saturday.
“We know each other, as far as our teams are concerned,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “… We're playing a really good club.”
Florida has gotten the better of things this season with three wins in the four meetings, but Vanderbilt’s one victory was a decisive one — 14-1 on May 14.
“It's not going to be easy,” O’Sullivan said. “I'm sure they've got [Grayson] Garvin, SEC pitcher of the year. And it's going to be a tremendous challenge for us.”
Garvin was the Commodores’ starting pitcher that day, and he limited the Gators to six hits over seven innings. Only once since then has Florida scored fewer than three runs.
“Two good offenses are going at it,” Florida designated hitter Brian Johnson said. “We faced Vanderbilt early in the season. They can swing the bats. But it's going to be a good game. … We'll see what everyone's got.”
Florida will see a slightly different opponent, though, based on what happened the first time the two SEC rivals met.
Vanderbilt led all three games in the regular-season series but lost a one-run advantage in the ninth on May 13 and fell 6-5. Two days later it was outscored 3-0 in the 12th of a 6-3 defeat on May 15.
Up to that point, Navery Moore had been the Commodores’ closer. Moore was on the mound in the ninth inning of both contests (he took the loss in the first) and three of the four earned runs he allowed for the season were in those games.
Since, Moore has appeared in just two games and pitched 2.2 innings.
“I think at this point, we don't really have a closer, per se. We're just trying to finish the ballgame, and we feel like the depth in our bullpen is so good that we can really utilize anyone,” coach Tim Corbin said. “It's not so important who finishes the game. It's just finishing the game with us winning.”
Corbin and O’Sullivan were assistants together at Clemson before they became SEC adversaries, which was in 2007 when Florida hired O’Sullivan.
They have met 17 times overall since then. Vanderbilt has won eight and Florida has won nine.
“I'm sure Tim's going to feel the same way I do,” O’Sullivan said. “Once the umpire says ‘plays ball,’ it's back to business. … Me and Tim go back an awfully long way. I care about him deeply.
“I’m just proud that we get an opportunity to play each other on this stage.”
It’s the first time they’ve met on this particular stage, but hardly the first time overall.