OMAHA, Neb. – Now everybody in black and gold can take a deep breath and enjoy this.
Vanderbilt 3, Virginia 2.
Take a bow, Commodores. You deserve it.
This is a team of destiny coached by a man of honor. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving team or a nicer guy.
Now Tim Corbin is a part of Vanderbilt sports lore, as are his Commodores. This is the first NCAA championship in a men’s sport in school history. For those keeping score, Vanderbilt’s intercollegiate sports competition began with the 1886 baseball team.
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It was worth the wait. This team persevered through a season of highs and lows, survived a dry spell in April, overcame an ugly 7-2 loss on Tuesday night and emerged with the championship trophy at the College World Series.
“You can’t have ups without downs,” said Commodores second baseman Dansby Swanson, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the CWS. “Going through all that only made us tougher.
“We lost Game 2 but we knew we could overcome that. We were able to get through it, and now look at us.”
Yes, look at them now.
With the last out on Wednesday night, Corbin slowly walked toward Virginia coach Brian O’Connor to shake hands. Then he returned to the Vanderbilt dugout. In time, Commodores pitcher Tyler Beede brought the national championship trophy to him.
Then he stood back while his players celebrated the championship on the field at TD Ameritrade Park. That’s his style. He prefers to watch the players enjoy themselves, likening it to watching children on Christmas morning.
“That’s my reward – the looks on their faces,” he said.
And a national championship is a just reward. This program is built in Corbin’s image. He is demanding. He is relentless. He is a stickler for details. He is a winner.
Combine those characteristics with an eye for talent and the skill to recruit it and you put your program in position to win championships.
It would have been easy for this team to get sidetracked by any number of things — including but not limited to the sudden loss to third baseman Xavier Turner, who was suspended by the NCAA after the first two games of the CWS for a rules violation – but the Commodores stayed the course.
Perseverance is in the team’s DNA. What we saw on Wednesday night hardly resembled the team that was throttled 7-2 in Game 2 of the best-of-three series.
Virginia’s victory on Tuesday gave the Cavaliers a huge surge of momentum going into the deciding game. But like they say in baseball, momentum is only as good as the next starting pitcher you face. With Carson Fulmer on the mound for Vanderbilt, the Cavs’ momentum took a hit.
Pitching on just three days rest, Fulmer was terrific. He went right at the Cavaliers, challenging them with a fastball that touched 96 mph in the first inning and stayed solidly in the 90s all night. He mixed in a few sliders here and there and used a changeup as his out pitch.
Knowing the competitor Fulmer is, you got the sense the only way he was giving up the baseball was if somebody could pry it from his cold, dead hand. Corbin pulled him in the bottom of the sixth after 103 pitches.
“You have to know the cut-off point to take him out,” Corbin said. “He’s not easy to take out.”
Although Fulmer didn’t get the win, it was his pitching that put the Commodores into position to finish things off.
“Coach talked to us before the game about having the chance to be legendary and bringing a national championship home to Nashville,” Fulmer said afterward. “I wanted the ball.”
In moments like this, we should reflect on how far Vanderbilt baseball has come on Corbin’s watch. In the first game of the Corbin era in 2003, the Commodores took the field against East Tennessee State with a chilly rain falling. In the stands at Hawkins Field were family and friends.
“My wife got there and she said, ‘I thought the game started at 4.’ I said, ‘It does,’ ” Corbin recalled. “She said, ‘There’s no one here.’ I said, ‘That’s right. There’s no one here.’ ”
Maggie Corbin then asked her husband if he wanted to go back to Clemson, where he had been an assistant coach for the previous nine years.
“She was joking, but it was just different,” Corbin said.
Now it’s really, really different.
If you build it, they will come.
Tim Corbin has built it. And a national championship has come.
Courtesy of: David Climer
Published by: The Tennessean