Vanderbilt capitalized on Virginia starter Nathan Kirby's sudden loss of control to score nine runs in the third inning, then held off the Cavaliers to win 9-8 in Game 1 of the College World Series finals Monday night.
The Commodores (50-20) can win their first national championship in a men's sport with a win Tuesday night.
Tyler Campbell continued his improbable breakout for the Commodores, doubling twice in the third inning. His second double came off reliever Whit Mayberry with the bases loaded to put Vanderbilt up 9-2.
But Virginia (52-15) chipped away, scoring three runs in the third, two in the fifth and another in the eighth to make it a one-run game.
Adam Ravenelle came on in the ninth to get the last three outs for his second save of the CWS.