Vanderbilt takes a 1-0 lead over Virginia in the College World Series finals

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The College World Series finals began last night and, since those finals are the best of three, it could be all wrapped up tonight. If it is, Vanderbilt will have taken home its first national championship in a men’s sport. Any sport.

That’s because Vanderbilt won a barnburner over Virginia, 9-8. Not that it was easy. It started that way, with the Commodores coming back from being down 2-0 early by scoring nine runs against Virginia starter Nathan Kirby in the third. Virginia chiseled away, though, scoring three more in the bottom of the third, two in the fifth and one more in the bottom of the eighth. It could’ve been two in the eighth, but Vanderbilt reliever John Kilichowski managed to kick the ball on a comebacker that very easily could’ve made it through the infield, preventing the tying run from scoring. After an uneventful ninth, Vandy took the 1-0 series lead.

While it may just be one game, the first game has mattered a whole heck of a lot since the College World Series went to a best-of-three final in 2003. In that time, seven of the 11 finals have been two-game sweeps. Only twice in the 11 years of the three-game format has the team that lost the first game gone on to win it all.

Of course, Virginia already had to do something that rarely happens in order to win this thing, as no ACC team has won the College World Series since 1955. That, of course, is just a historical curiosity that has no bearing on what happens in 2014. Being down 1-0 in a three-game set, however, does make things tangibly and empirically harder.

Game two is tonight at 8PM Eastern. Game three, if necessary, is tomorrow night at the same time.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.