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Connor Jones outdueled by Fulmer in Virginia's 5-1 loss in College World Series finals opener

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OMAHA, Nebraska — Connor Jones gave Virginia the kind of start that would have been good enough to win most nights.

It wasn't against Vanderbilt ace Carson Fulmer.

Jones held the Commodores scoreless through five innings, but his teammates couldn't solve Fulmer and Virginia lost 5-1 Monday night in the first game of the College World Series finals.

The Cavaliers (42-24), in the finals for the second straight year against Vanderbilt (51-19), must win Tuesday to force a deciding third game Wednesday.

"We've been in this situation before this year," coach Brian O'Connor said. "We were in this situation going into Saturday, that if you win you get to continue your season and if you don't, it's over. This team has handled that kind of adversity all year long and I would imagine tomorrow night will be no different."

Jones (7-3) allowed three hits before the Commodores got to him for two runs in the sixth. Will Toffey's two-run double broke a scoreless tie, and Vanderbilt added three more runs in the seventh against Jones and Kevin Doherty.

"I thought Connor did a great job there for five innings, making big pitches against a good lineup," O'Connor said. "What makes Vanderbilt good from an offensive standpoint is they have three guys in middle of lineup that have proved they can hit the ball out of the ballpark. That puts a lot of pressure on you."

Jones said he tried to be aggressive against Vanderbilt's batters.

PHOTO: Vanderbilt's Ro Coleman slides safely into third base as Virginia infielder Kenny Towns (9) fields the throw on a Dansby Swanson single in the third inning of Game 1 of the best-of-three NCAA baseball College World Series finals at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike Theiler)
Vanderbilt's Ro Coleman slides safely into third base as Virginia infielder Kenny Towns (9) fields the throw on a Dansby Swanson single in the third inning of Game 1 of the best-of-three NCAA baseball College World Series finals at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike Theiler)

"I felt real confident in my split, but I struggled to find my slider, but it came around," Jones said. "I'd say you've got to go right after them. You can't fall behind in counts. Go after them and make them beat you."

Fulmer held Virginia to two hits and struck out eight over 7 2/3 shutout innings. Vanderbilt fans gave the No. 8 overall draft pick by the Chicago White Sox a standing ovation as he descended the dugout steps.

Fulmer (14-2), the No. 8 overall draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, completed his finest season. He was Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year after leading the conference in wins, strikeouts and ERA.

"What made it big for me was not only did I have coach there but the whole infield around me," Fulmer said of his last moments on the mound as a collegian. "To spend that moment with them and to look back at the brotherhood we created, and to win the game, it's a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life. I couldn't have asked for it to happen any better."

Fulmer 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. Ben Bowden came on for Fulmer with two outs and two runners on in the eighth and got Matt Thaiss to fly out.

Fulmer attacked Virginia with his fastball all night, and four of his eight strikeouts ended innings.

"I saw Carson pitch in high school, and he's continued to develop," O'Connor said. "I like his competitive spirit. He's going to come at you and give you his best. You can see why he's won 13 or 14 ballgames and you can see why he's had success in Omaha last year and this year. He's going to be pitching for a long, long time."

Virginia scored against Kyle Wright in the ninth to end the Vandy bullpen's streak of 22 shutout innings. Kenny Towns singled leading off, took second on a wild pitch and came home on pinch hitter Jack Gerstenmaier's base hit.

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.

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