Vandy beats Virginia 3-2 for first national title
Virginia's run at a national championship came down to one inning.
After Vanderbilt's John Norwood hit a tie-breaking homer in the top of the eighth, the Cavaliers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half.
They couldn't score against Vandy's Adam Ravenelle and went on to lose 3-2 in the third and deciding game of the College World Series finals on Wednesday night.
"An outstanding final series between the two of us," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. "Unfortunately in sports, somebody's going to come out on the wrong end, and we came out on the wrong end tonight. The University of Virginia baseball program will be back here in Omaha at some point, and maybe the next time we can win it all."
Norwood turned on Nick Howard's 97 mph fastball and sent it into the left field bullpen to break a 2-2 tie. Then Hayden Stone and Ravenelle closed it out.
It was Norwood's third homer of the year, his first since April 19, and Vanderbilt's first since May 16. It also was only the third home run in 16 CWS games and the 22nd in 72 games by the Commodores (51-21).
"You've got to credit John Norwood," O'Connor said. "The pitch was up in the zone and he took an aggressive swing and hit the ball out."
The Cavaliers (53-16) loaded the bases with one out in the eighth when Ravenelle hit Kenny Towns. But Mike Papi was forced out at home on a chopper to Ravenelle, and Brandon Downes grounded out.
"I think it's human nature as a player or as a coach to reflect back and look at what could have happened," O'Connor said. "But if we did that all the time, I think we'd drive ourselves crazy. We had opportunities, and it just didn't happen for us."
The title, secured when Ravenelle struck out Daniel Pinero, is Vanderbilt's first in a men's sport. The school's only other title came in women's bowling in 2007.
Vandy second baseman Dansby Swanson was chosen the CWS Most Outstanding Player. Swanson batted .323 in the CWS, scored five runs, drove in two and stole three bases. He played flawlessly in the field.
"When you've got guys backing up each other like we do, anything is possible," Swanson said.
After the last out, Vanderbilt players grabbed the championship trophy and hoisted coach Tim Corbin on their shoulders.
"Every coach, you immerse yourself in the kids and they become more than baseball players; they become your sons," Corbin said. "This is a nice feeling. It's good to watch them celebrate achievements."
Stone (4-0) relieved Carson Fulmer with one out in the sixth and allowed two hits before turning the game over to Ravenelle after Virginia's first two batters reached in the eighth. Ravenelle earned his third save of the CWS.
Howard (2-2) came on in the eighth after Artie Lewicki had pitched six innings of four-hit relief. He left a fastball up that Norwood put over the fence, just right of the 335-foot sign.
"I don't think it's really sunk in yet, but I'm sure later on there will be some time to reflect and probably deal with some emotions," said Lewicki, a fifth-year senior who didn't give up an earned run in 23 1-3 innings of the NCAA tournament. "The most prevalent emotion right now is disappointment, I guess, not for me and my career here, but more for us and our team and the great year we had."
Virginia broke through against Fulmer to tie it 2-2 in the sixth when Kenny Towns' bases-loaded grounder hit shortstop Vince Conde's glove and bounced off for an error.
Vanderbilt led 1-0 in the first after Virginia catcher Robbie Coman sailed a throw into center field trying to catch Bryan Reynolds stealing. Swanson, who was going to third on the double steal, continued home.
Another error in the sixth set up Vanderbilt's second run. Norwood grounded to third for an infield single and wound up on second after Towns' throw in the dirt skipped past first baseman Mike Papi. Norwood later came home on Conde's deep grounder to shortstop.