Baseball is a sport that can be tremendously boring, but also one that can leave you gouging finger marks into the armrest of your easy chair. The Washington Huskies on Sunday night, played a game that left even the most weathered baseball fan flapping their hands in search of oxygen, beating the Cal State Fullerton Titans 6-5 in ten innings, securing their first berth at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Huskies had an early lead, thanks to two solo home runs, from Nick Kahle and Willie MacIver. Junior Joe DeMers, the ace of the staff, pitched brilliantly for most of the game. He was perfect through six innings, before giving up his first run of the game on a sixth inning sacrifice fly. The Huskies went into the ninth inning up 3-1, with DeMers still on the hill.
With DeMers as sure of a thing as exists in college baseball, I settled into my comfy seat. Battling the stomach flu and filled with Benadryl, I vacantly stared at the TV, absorbing only the vaguest of information, and understanding only of the fact that the Huskies were about to cruise to a victory.
But nearing 100 pitches, DeMers command finally deserted him. In the bottom of the ninth, he gave up three RBI singles, giving the Titans a 4-3 lead, before being lifted in favor of senior Alex Hardy.
At this point, I let out a guttural, nauseated screech in response to my very real nausea, and the unfortunate turn of events on the diamond. This noise scared my dogs, and caused my father to look over at me in disdain.
In the bottom of the ninth, against closer Brett Conine, the Huskies battled back, as Jonathan Schiffer singled through the left side, driving in Kaiser Weiss to tie the game at 4-4.
In the 10th, Titans second baseman Hank Loforte hit a home run to right center that barely cleared the fence, but was enough to give the Titans yet another one run lead, at 5-4.
With my immune system in overdrive, my emotional state was already fraught with worry. Now that the Huskies had blown yet another lead, I whipped my head back in angst, giving myself vertigo, and causing me to moan with both dizziness and frustration.
The Huskies got off to a quick start in the bottom of the 10th, loading the bases with nobody out, and then tying the game when Jack Johnson scored on a muffed ground ball by the shortstop. Kaiser Weiss then lofted a fly ball to deep left field, deep enough for Levi Jordan to score, and send the Huskies to their first college World Series.
Physically unable to stand up and cheer, I let out a soft cheer and reached over to pet my dog, who deftly avoided my touch out of annoyance from my earlier trumpetings of fury.
Weiss had an outstanding game, scoring the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and driving in the winning run in the tenth. A late-inning defensive replacement throughout the season, Weiss played an integral role for the Huskies throughout the Super Regionals, driving in three RBI over the past three games.
“Before that at bat, like I did in the ninth, I told myself I just need to flush whatever is happening right now and focus on what I need to do,” Weiss said.
In a season that had so many high points, such as DeMers perfect game against UC Riverside, any one of the 19 home runs from Joe Wainhouse, or the many fantastic plays from Levi Jordan, this game will be one none of them ever forget.
“I’m thrilled for the University of Washington,” head coach Lindsay Meggs said. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m really proud of our guys.”
The College World Series berth is the continuation of a great season for the UW on the diamond. The Huskies’ softball team recently made it to the Women’s College World Series finals, losing to Florida State in two games. The men continue to break ground on many fronts, as the Super Regionals appearance was also the first in school history.
The Huskies have lost many of their star players to graduation over the past several seasons, including players like Jack Meggs, Joey Morgan, and MJ Hubbs, so to get to a College World Series with a young group of ball players bodes well for the team over the next several seasons, even as DeMers, junior shortstop AJ Graffanino, and senior second baseman Levi Jordan were selected in the MLB draft and will all most likely turn pro.
The Huskies will play Mississippi State in the first round of the College World Series. For this fan, UW alum, and part-time UW play by play man, it will be a fun time. Hopefully this time without any of the nausea, and a touch less drama on the diamond.