Hoos Advance to Omaha in Stunning Fashion

Tuesday, June 14 2011 by Tim

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Bottom of the 9th. Trailing 2-1. Two outs. Two strikes. No one on. Dreams of Omaha fading quickly. ESPN shows the Virginia dugout – the ‘Hoos look dejected. It all comes down to this.

But one man kept his poise. And why not? He’s the leading hitter on the #1 team in America. David Coleman confidently awaits his pitch. When he gets it, he singles up the middle. Then in comes Mitchell Shifflett – Virginia’s fastest player – to pinch run.

Then another man kept his poise. And why not? He had already helped the Cavs secure the Game 1 victory with a three run homer to left field. Jared King confidently awaits his pitch. When he gets it, he hits it straight up the middle again – so straight, in fact, that it hits Summers, the Anteaters’ ace pitcher in the foot  and caroms off towards 3B. Shifflett and King both reach base safely.

Summers looks fine and is adamant when talking to the coach that he can still pitch. But pinch hitter Reed Gragnani steps to the plate in place of fan-favorite Keith Werman and stares down 4 straight balls to reach first and load the bases. Summers still says he’s fine, but those four balls make you wonder. Coach O’Connor sends in another pinch runner – this time its Corey Hunt to take the place of Jared King at second. Hunt represents the winning running.

So here it is. Bases loaded. Two outs. The tying run stands at third in Mitchell Shifflett. The winning run stands at second in Corey Hunt. The Cavalier baseball team stands in the dugout. The Cavalier fans stand in the… er… stands. And at the plate, sophomore Chris Taylor – the outstanding Cavalier shortstop who had hit well so far in the post-season - stands and awaits his pitch.

Taylor watches strike one, getting his bearings. He doesn’t watch long. Taylor sends Summers’s second pitch right back at him, over the mound and past the bag at second. The Irvine second basemen makes a nice diving attempt at the ball, but it whizzes past. Shifflett touches home plate seeming before the ball even leaves the infield. Tie game. Hunt rounds third and heads home. The Irvine catcher waits for the throw… but it doesn’t get there anywhere close to in time. Hunt touches the plate – though frankly I’m not sure how he even saw it with all the Virginia players surrounding it – and the game is over. Virginia wins! Virginia wins!

It’s certainly one of the most epic comebacks I’ve ever witnessed in person. And on this stage – on the cusp of the College World Series – a comeback like that is even sweeter.

Virginia next plays Cal-Berkeley (ironic to face two UC teams in a row, isn’t it?) at 2pm on Sunday in the first game of the second day of the College World Series. The winner will play the winner of the South Carolina/Texas A&M game (Sunday, 7pm) on Tuesday at 2pm. The loser will play the loser of the S. Carolina/TAMU game on Tuesday at 7pm. All games are played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. The entire bracket is available for your perusal at the NCAA website.