OMAHA, Neb. — Home runs were rare at the College World Series this June, and for the Vanderbilt baseball team since May.
Commodores center fielder John Norwood ended both droughts with one aggressive swing.
Norwood cracked a tiebreaking solo home run in the eighth inning, and Vanderbilt defeated Virginia 3-2 in the third and deciding game of the College World Series championship series Wednesday night.
Vanderbilt (51-21) won its first NCAA baseball crown in only its second CWS appearance, and it won the school’s first NCAA title in any men’s sport.
With one out in the top of the eighth, Norwood, the cleanup hitter, lined a high 1-0 fastball from Virginia closer Nick Howard down the left field line and into the Virginia bullpen before 18,344 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
It was Norwood’s third home run this season, only the third home run hit in the CWS, and the first home run by a Vanderbilt player since May 16, when first baseman Zander Wiel homered against South Carolina.
“I’m very excited for the kids, the university. We played an outstanding opponent,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, a native of Wolfeboro, N.H. “We’re fortunate in a lot of different ways. That was a heck of a college baseball game. The kids, they’re tough. They hung in there. I’m just so proud of how they matured over the course of 72 games.”
Norwood finished 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs. He was among four Vanderbilt players named to the All-CWS team, which included second baseman Dansby Swanson, who was selected the CWS’ most outstanding player.
“Coach talks about maintaining the momentum on our side, and if it stays on our side long enough, we’re going to get a big hit like that,” Vanderbilt starting pitcher Carson Fulmer said of Norwood’s blast. “Johnny’s been clutch for us all year, and he saw the fastball up and he just put the team on his back and put us in a great position.”
Virginia (53-16) loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but Vanderbilt reliever Adam Ravenelle got out of the jam with two ground-ball outs.
Ravenelle pitched a perfect ninth inning for his third save, striking out the final two batters swinging to set off a dog-pile celebration at the mound.