OMAHA, Neb. — For a guy who doesn’t hit many home runs, John Norwood’s timing was impeccable.
Norwood’s tie-breaking homer in the top of the eighth inning carried Vanderbilt to a 3-2 win over Virginia on Wednesday night for the Commodores’ first national championship.
Norwood turned on Nick Howard’s 97-mph fastball and sent it into the left-field bullpen. Then Hayden Stone and Adam Ravenelle closed out the third and deciding game of the College World Series finals.
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).
“I thought it was absolutely gone as soon as I hit it,” Norwood said. “I was only thinking about hitting the ball hard. We were totally confident going back to regionals and super regionals and really felt we could get this done.”
The Cavaliers (53-16) loaded the bases with one out in the eighth when Adam Ravenelle hit Kenny Towns. But Mike Papi was forced out at home on a chopper to Ravenelle, and Brandon Downes grounded out. 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 was just praying the whole time the ball was up there, and I couldn’t believe it when it went over,” Vandy’s Tyler Campbell said.
Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said, “You’ve got to credit John Norwood. The pitch was up in the zone and he took an aggressive swing and hit the ball out.”
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.