OMAHA, Neb. The moment Vanderbilt fans have dreamed about their entire lives became a reality on Wednesday evening.
For the first time in Vanderbilt men's athletics history, thanks to John Norwood's eighth-inning home run, the Commodores are national champions, after a 3-2 win over Virginia.
The Commodores' postgame celebration at the College World Series was fitting of the occasion. Players, coaches and administrators spent more than an hour on the field at TD Ameritrade Park after the game was over.
They didn't want to leave. It was their dream, too.
"It's unexplainable… This is something that you dream about and while we're out there we try not to think about it," Vanderbilt right fielder Rhett Wiseman said. "I mean -- I'm speechless."
The Commodores, who are expected to arrive around 1:30 p.m. at McGugin Center, will get to celebrate again tonight. Fans are invited to come to the soccer stadium on campus for the event at 6 p.m.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin may have described the feeling best in a moment of calmness amid a flurry of celebratory embraces.
"I can't even put it into words," he said. "It's just so weird. It's a dream that I'm afraid someone is going to wake me up… I'm going to be bummed if someone does."
Some players ran to the stands to share the moment with their families and friends. Others, like starting pitcher Tyler Beede, huddled with their teammates sharing what may be their final moments together on the same baseball field.
"We are just so happy for each other," Beede said. "I think that's the biggest thing. We're going around hugging each other as much as we can. Letting it sink in. I think holding that national championship trophy helps a little bit. Just looking into each other's eyes and looking into our coaches' eyes and realizing that the hard work paid off and we get to end the season as the best team in college baseball. What a great feeling."
Relief pitcher Adam Ravenelle recorded the final out by striking out Virginia shortstop Daniel Pinero. A pitch that is sure to be replayed for years to come.
"I've been waiting all year for that moment right there," he said. "I was just trying to breathe. Literally trying to get breath into my lungs, you know? I couldn't even breathe out there."
A shower of black and gold confetti rained down on TD Ameritrade Park after Ravenelle retired the final hitter. Then the crowd chanted, "Who ya with? V-U!" followed by "SEC!, SEC!"
Norwood forever etched himself into Commodores lore with the game-winning home run, turning a 97 mph fastball from first-round pick Nick Howard around and planting it into the bullpen behind left field to break a 2-2 tie.
When asked where this moment ranks in his life's memories, Norwood said, "Number one .... always."
Corbin shook up his lineup on the final day of the season in search for offensive answers after the Commodores had scored just three runs in their last 15 innings of play. Everyone except Dansby Swanson received a new spot in the batting order from the night before.
All of that rearrangement was necessary to put Norwood in the box at that moment in time. He began the tournament hitting sixth and finished batting fourth.
Norwood's home run was just his third of the season and the first Commodores home run since Zander Wiel hit one against South Carolina on May 16.
Ravenelle worked the Commodores out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth inning, inducing a comebacker and a ground ball to shortstop Vince Conde to end the Cavaliers threat.
Vanderbilt faced elimination three times in the NCAA tournament, and each time Corbin's team responded with a victory on the next day.
This time, it was thanks to a brilliant effort from Carson Fulmer, who gave the Commodores 5⅓ innings of one-run ball while pitching on three days rest. He didn't factor into the decision, but his 103-pitch outing went a long way in putting Vanderbilt in a position to win the game.
Winning on this stage was a long-time coming for a program that has put 73 players into professional baseball over the past decade, including 12 players that have reached the major leagues.
One-by-one the great Commodores baseball teams of the past fell short of reaching this crowning achievement.
From the heartache of a pinch-hit home run from Michigan's Alan Oaks off David Price in 2007 to the 132-pitch effort by Sonny Gray that left Vanderbilt just short in 2011 in Omaha, Commodore supporters had the carrot dangled in front of them only to have it taken away.
This team may not have been the most talented group Corbin has ever coached, but it proved to be the most resilient.
Vanderbilt jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a double steal by Swanson and Bryan Reynolds. Virginia catcher Robbie Coman's throw to second base sailed into center field, allowing Swanson to score. Reynolds was thrown out trying to advance to third on the play.
The Commodores extended their lead to 2-0 in the top of the sixth inning with an infield single by Vince Conde that allowed Norwood to score from third base.
Virginia tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. Pinero singled to right-center off of Fulmer, bringing home Coman. Fulmer was removed for freshman reliever Hayden Stone, and Virginia tied the game when Conde misplayed a low liner off the bat of Kenny Towns, allowing Pinero to reach home safely.
Stone worked out of the bases-loaded jam with a strikeout. He earned the victory.