OMAHA, Neb. – On a night that seemed to go according to Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor’s plan, it was the unexpected and sensational that took the battle as Vanderbilt center fielder John Norwood powered a 97 mile per hour delivery from Viriginia closer, and first-round draft pick, Nick Howard over the fence in left for the game-winning run. The line drive shot cleared the fence with very little doubt and felt at the time like a game-changer, a highlight reel moment, to hang on the 2014 College World Series Finals. The blast propelled the Commodores to put anchors down in winning the school’s first baseball national title and the fourth title for an SEC school in the last seven seasons.
“I thought it was gone,” said Norwood, “but you never know in this park. I was just hoping it went out, and if it didn’t, I knew my teammates would pick me up.”
Speaking of which, there were doubts on the Vanderbilt bench as head coach Tim Corbin illustrated, “I just was hoping that it didn’t have enough top spin that it would hit the fence. They had seen two already, Dansby’s and Rhett, and they were six inches away from being home runs.”
“You’ve got to credit Johnny Norwood,” said coach O’Connor, “The pitch was up in the zone, and he took an aggressive swing and hit the ball out.”
Norwood definitely earned the right to have Aloe Blacc’s, “The Man” piping in his headphones after his performance in the Finals series for the Commodores. The 6’2″ 210 pound junior had a series for the books hitting .500 (5-for-10) over the series that included a 3-for-3 night in Game 3 with the game-winning homer and two runs scored while reaching base four times.
He scored four times in the series with three RBI and three walks for a .615 on base percentage while his double and homer helped him to a .900 slugging percentage and a 1.515 OPS. Add to those numbers a stolen base to get a gauge of the offensive performance Norwood put together and the continual threat he was to the Virginia pitching staff.
The Cavaliers’ staff was only able to strike him out once the entire series as his strikeout percentage was 7.7 percent and his walk percentage was 23.1 percent. Norwood made himself a tough out every at bat and his speed on the bases was a factor every time he got on base or put the ball in play.
Norwood realizes that while his solo shot made the difference tonight, and that his performances in the series played a huge role overal, it was his teammates that came together to make the title happen.
Norwood said, “It’s a home run, but it’s also a team effort to get here.”