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Here’s what happened in every Game 3 in Men’s College World Series finals history

Since the Men’s College World Series switched to a best-of-three format to decide the national championship in 2003, the title has come down to a decisive third game 11 times. That includes 2023, when LSU regrouped after a blowout loss to Florida in Game 2 to beat the Gators in Game 3 and take the title.

Here’s a look back at some highlights from every Game 3 since the format’s introduction in 2003.

2003: Rice final. Stanford, 14-2

The first Game 3 in College World Series title series history was a show of power from Rice. The Owls scored 14 runs on 14 hits, including seven in the bottom of the sixth, to win the school’s first national championship in any sport.

2006: Oregon State final UNC, 3-2

In our first one-run Game 3, Oregon State avoided elimination in Game 2, then the Beavers’ Bill Rowe took advantage of a throwing error in Game 3 to score what would prove to be the title-winning run.

2008: Fresno State final Georgia, 6-1

March Madness may have popularized the Cinderella run, but Fresno State’s magical 2008 championship went down in history as some of the best underdog stories in college. Fresno outlasted Georgia 19-10 in an outrageous Game 2 before taking Game 3, setting the record for most losses to a national champion (31) by refusing to quit when it mattered most.

2009: LSU final. Texas, 11-4

The Longhorns forced Game 3, but ultimately the Tigers’ high-powered offense was too much for Texas to handle.

CWS HISTORY: Programs with the most CWS titles | Most CWS appearances | Winning coaches

2014: Vanderbilt final Virginia, 3-2

John Norwood was the man of the night for the Commodores as he blasted a solo home run past the left field fence in the bottom of the eighth, breaking a 2-2 tie and producing the championship-winning run. It was Vanderbilt’s first-ever national baseball title.

2015: Virginia final Vanderbilt, 4-2

Rubber match! That’s right: after four seasons without a Game 3, we were treated to two seasons in a row, with the same two teams! The second time, Virginia got revenge on Vanderbilt, topping the ‘Dores 4-2 for the Cavaliers’ first national title.

2016: Coastal Carolina final Arizona, 4-3

Three consecutive years, three consecutive champions. This time, Coastal Carolina took an unorthodox route to Game 3 success, scoring four unearned runs on a pair of fielding errors to take home a dramatic 4-3 victory over Arizona.

2018: Oregon State final Arkansas, 5-0

The Beavers were one pop-up in foul territory away from elimination in Game 2, but they took advantage of a Razorbacks error, rallied to force Game 3 and then handed the ball to Kevin Abel. The freshman pitcher threw a complete game shutout, the fourth in CWS history and the first in 25 years.

2018: Vanderbilt final Michigan, 8-2

It was a classic David versus Goliath scenario. The Vandy Boys – who started the season as the preseason No. 2 – entered Omaha as the highest remaining seed and ranked No. 2 nationally. Michigan went from the final four to the NCAA baseball tournament, all the way to the CWS finals, even handing Vanderbilt a loss in Game 1. Another Kumar Rocker electric postseason start forced Game 3, where despite Michigan coming in first, Vanderbilt struck, struck often. building a five-run lead in the fourth inning. The rest, as they say, was history.

2021: Mississippi State defeats. Vanderbilt, 9-0

After losing by six points in Game 1, Mississippi State defeated Vandy two games in a row — 13-2 and 9-0 — to win the first national championship in program history, or in any team sport.

2023: LSU final. Florida, 18-4

The Gators forced a final game with a 24-4 drubbing of LSU. But the Tigers returned the favor in Game 3 and dominated with a 14-point victory to win the seventh national championship in program history. After trailing 2-0 in the first inning, the Tigers scored six in the second and never looked back.

A few additional notes on these Game 3s:

  • Teams that forced Game 3 by winning Game 2 are 7-4 in the deciding final game
  • The average margin of victory for Game 3 winners is quite large: 5.72 runs. Of course, this is largely due to Rice’s 12-point win in 2003 and Game 3 losses in 2021 (9-0) and 2023 (18-4).
  • Three of 11, or 27.2 percent, of Game 3s have been decided by one point.