GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #2: A walk-off straight out of a movie

Little-used freshman pinch hitter steps to the plate, with his team down 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth, having done absolutely nothing offensively all game. With the bases jammed, facing one of the best pitchers in the country and down to his final strike, the freshman golfs a 1-2 pitch over the right field fence for a walk-off grand slam. It sounds like something out of a movie, but UC Santa Barbara can assure it is not. And Louisville, although they’d rather forget, can also confirm its reality. 

UC Santa Barbara was a 2-seed in their region, and they went 3-0 en route to reaching the Super Regionals for the first time in program history. They were lucky enough to not have to take on top-seeded Vanderbilt, getting to face 4. Xavier twice instead. However, they received no such luck in their inaugural Super Regional, having to take on Louisville, who finished the year ranked second in the country. Louisville had also cruised their regional, dispatching each of the three teams in their pool with relative ease, giving up just five runs along the way. 

Game 1 was a good one, as the Gauchos shocked the Cardinals 4-2 to open the series, putting them one game away from a College World Series berth. But it was Game 2 that provided one of the best moments in college baseball history. Drew Harrington took the mound for the Cardinals and looked very comfortable from the get-go. He scattered six hits and a walk over seven dominant innings, shutting out the Gauchos with a dozen strikeouts. He did not allow a hit until the fourth inning, when he had been staked to a 3-0 advantage. He allowed the first two batters of the eighth to reach and left the game. Departing after 7+ innings and 92 pitches, Harrington looked in line for a well-deserved win. Louisville’s bullpen escaped the eighth-inning mini-jam with ease, and the Gauchos were down to their final three outs. 

The toughest part of their comeback was that it was going to have to come against Louisville’s stud closer, Zach Burdi. Burdi had been one of the best pitchers in the country. There was no reason to expect that Burdi, a first-round draft pick with a career 1.92 ERA, would fold. He had 11 saves on the year, and the Cardinals were 47-0 when leading after eight innings. Those were the odds that UC Santa Barbara were facing, so you can forgive anyone who was already mentally prepared for a Game 3. 

Burdi started the ninth with a strikeout, but ultimately, it would only be the only out he recorded. JJ Muno singled for the Gauchos, and Burdi unraveled, uncharacteristically issuing two walks to load the bases, allowing the Gauchos to bring the winning run to the plate. They elected to do so in the form of freshman Sam Cohen, a little-used substitute with all of 26 plate appearances on the season. He had appeared in 19 games for a team that had never been to a Super Regional against the nation’s best closer – it was the unlikeliest of postseason match-ups. 

Burdi fired a ball and whipped in a 96mph offering for a strike. Cohen fouled off another heater, putting him in a 1-2 hole. Burdi elected to deliver a changeup that spun down and in on the left-handed hitting Cohen. The freshman reached down and got a hold of the pitch, pulling it high and deep down the right field line. It stayed fair easily and cleared the fence for a walk-off grand slam, sending the Gauchos to their first ever College World Series. 

The Aftermath

UC Santa Barbara didn’t make any lengthy run in Omaha, but they did collect one more stunning victory. They lost 1-0 to Oklahoma State in the opener before shocking Miami, the #3 team in the country to survive for one more game. There, the Gauchos fell to eventual NCAA runner-ups Arizona, ending their Cinderella Run. 

The Gauchos saw ace Shane Bieber taken in the 4th round of the MLB draft. Bieber now pitches for the Indians, and he was the MVP of the 2019 MLB All-Star Game. Sam Cohen played with UC Santa Barbara for three seasons, hitting .246 over three seasons, with his final two as a starter. He played out the last of his eligibility with Hope International, but he is no longer playing baseball.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #3: The Most Unlikely College World Series Winner Ever

Far and away the most unlikely College World Series champion ever, Fresno State’s miracle run in 2008 comes in at #3 on our countdown of the top postseason NCAA baseball moments. Fresno State was not an unknown in the college baseball world entering the season, as they were ranked #21 by Baseball America’s preseason poll, but the Bulldogs quickly fell off everyone’s radars with a wildly mediocre regular season. In a mediocre Western Athletic Conference, Fresno State put up just a 33-27 overall record. And they weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders heading into the postseason, having won just 7 of their past 17 games. A run through the conference tournament was the Bulldogs’ only route to the NCAA Tournament, a far cry from the beginning of the year, when they seemed to be a lock. 

However, the Bulldogs were far from done. The two-time defending WAC champions, Fresno State proved once more that when they turned it on, they were the class of the conference. The Bulldogs won four consecutive games, taking down Nevada in the title game and securing an auto-bid for a third straight season. The Bulldogs were ranked 51st out of 64 teams in the field, and as such, they were granted a 4-seed in the Long Beach Regional. 

Fresno State sent an immediate message in their opener, dismantling top-seeded and #14 overall Long Beach State, 7-3. But even low-seeded teams have a good game, or have an ace, so it wasn’t until the Bulldogs shut out second-seeded San Diego in the winners’ bracket contest that their chances seemed seriously improved. The Bulldogs drew San Diego in the championship, and they had two chances to win, which they needed. They looked horrible in dropping a 15-1 decision in the first game, but they rebounded with a 5-1 victory to push into the Super Regionals. 

However, the Bulldogs’ little mini-run was supposed to end brutally with their next obstacle. Fresno State encountered Arizona State, the third-ranked team in the country. Not only that, but they were battling history, as no four-seed had ever made it to the College World Series. The Sun Devils were a particularly fearsome opponent, having averaged 12 runs a game in their previous three NCAA Tournament games, giving up a total of ten. It looked to be a quick series when Arizona State took care of business in the opener, dominating Fresno State 12-4, putting the Bulldogs on the brink of elimination. The Sun Devils got off to another hot start in Game 2, opening up a 5-2 lead, but the underdogs weren’t done yet, striking back with a grand slam from Gavin Hedstrom that gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Fresno State won 8-6 and forced Game 3. 

The deciding contest was a slugfest, particularly in the final frames. Tied 5-5 in the seventh, Arizona State turned to their ace in Mike Leake, who had fired 118 pitches in their Game 1 victory, but Leake did not have anything in the tank. Two walks and a hit batter led to a run and a 6-5 Bulldogs’ lead, but it didn’t stop there. Second baseman Erik Wetzel drilled one into the gap for a bases-clearing double. Left fielder and WAC player of the year Steve Susdorf deposited Leake’s next offering over the fence, and suddenly the Bulldogs led 11-5. They added another run later and appeared in control, up 12-5 into the ninth. But nothing was going to come that easy, as the Sun Devils struck four times and loaded the bases, allowing Matt Newman, who had already slammed two home runs in the game, to come to the plate as the winning run. Newman blooped one into left field, where Susdor made a sliding catch, sending Fresno State to Omaha. 

Six of the top-8 ranked teams in the country made it to Omaha, and Fresno State took on one of those squads, matching up against #6 Rice in the first game. It was never a contest. Justin Wilson took the mound for the Bulldogs, and he danced in and out of trouble, allowing Fresno State to build a massive lead. Wilson left the game after seven frames and leading 11-1. The Bulldogs cruised to a 17-5 victory. Game two was a closer ordeal against #2 North Carolina, but Fresno State survived once more. On the strength of home runs from Susdorf and Ryan Overland and a sterling pitching performance from five Fresno State hurlers, punctuated by a four-out save from Brandon Burke, the Bulldogs dispatched the Tar Heels, 5-3. 

Fresno State had to take on the Tar Heels once more in the semifinals, and again they needed two chances to secure one victory. After a 4-3 loss, Fresno State turned to pitcher Clayton Allison, sidelined for two weeks with tendinitis, to deliver them from elimination. Allison gritted out a six-inning performance, surrendering a single run while striking out six. Burke later said it was “one of the gutsiest things he ever saw on a baseball diamond”. Fresno State extended a 2-1 lead to 6-1, and their bullpen sealed the deal, leading the Bulldogs into the national championship, a best-of-three series against Georgia, the #8 team in the country. Georgia was 5-0 in elimination games to that point, and they hadn’t lost in Omaha, going 3-0 en route to their title game appearance. 

Game 1 was a thriller, as Fresno State took a 6-3 lead in the top of the eighth, only to give it all back in the bottom half, as Georgia took the opener, 7-6. Much like the Arizona State series, this one looked all over early in Game 2, as Georgia went up 5-0 by the third inning, but once more, Fresno State responded. They mauled Georgia for fifteen runs in the next three innings and cruised to a 19-10 victory, fittingly bringing this one to Game 3. In a historical and miraculous run to the championship, Fresno State needed just a couple of legendary performances in their final contest to bring home the title. Offensively, it was Steve Detwiler getting the job done, as Detwiler brought home a whopping six runs with two home runs, a double, and a single. Meanwhile, on the mound it was Wilson doing it all. On three day’s rest, Wilson silenced Georgia’s bats for eight innings, giving up a mere one run over 129 pitches. In the meantime, Fresno State built a 6-1 lead, setting up for a ninth inning celebration. Burke did the honors, collecting the final three outs and inducing a massive dogpile. All in all, Fresno State went 6-0 in elimination games, and they set a record for losses by a College World Series champion with 31 on the season. 

The Aftermath

Fresno State saw five people named to the All-Tournament team, with Susdorf and Detwiler among those honored.The Bulldogs weren’t darlings in the MLB draft, as only five Fresno State players heard their names called. Wilson was the first off the board, 144th overall, and he was followed by Wetzel, Miller, Susdorf, and Allison. The Bulldogs have made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, but they are yet to go back to Omaha.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #4: Pepperdine stuns everyone in 1992

Coming in at #4 on our Top-7 moments in NCAA Baseball history countdown is the miracle that was the 1992 Pepperdine Baseball team. Compared to the 2006 Oregon State team – the first underdog run we covered in this countdown – Pepperdine was a slightly bigger Cinderella for a few reasons. One is that Pepperdine was barely ranked for most of the year, whereas Oregon State was a top-15 team entering the NCAA Tournament. Pepperdine wasn’t even favored to escape their regional, which was a spot they had struggled in for years. In their past seven trips to the NCAA tournament, each appearance had ended in the regional. They had only played in one College World Series, which came back in 1979. 

Pepperdine entered the year with expectations of making the NCAA Tournament, but playing in the relatively obscure and irrelevant West Coast Conference, nobody was paying attention to the Waves on the national scene. After dropping two of three to Saint Mary’s just over halfway through the regular season, the Waves stood at 18-8-1 – a very good record, but hardly anything groundbreaking, especially considering most of their success was fueled by an 11-0-1 record at their own Eddy D. Field Stadium. However, the Waves were able to crack the rankings by ending the year with victories in 22 of their final 24 games, including a twelve-game winning streak to end the season. Their remarkable streak was punctuated with a 16-8 victory over a strong UCLA squad that would end up falling one game short of the College World Series. 

Pepperdine entered the 6-team West regional as a 3-seed, and they got some favorable luck in the first few rounds. Arizona and Hawaii, the top two teams in the regional respectively, both lost their first round games, allowing Pepperdine consecutive winners bracket match-ups with lower seeds. The Waves took advantage; after squeaking past Fresno State, Pepperdine dispatched Southeastern Louisiana and hammered sixth-seeded Washington to advance to the championship. 

There, however, the Waves finally had to do battle with Hawaii, and they immediately lost their one-game cushion with a 6-3 loss in their first battle with the Rainbow Warriors, producing a winners-take-all finale. However, Pepperdine re-adjusted and drilled a nail into Hawaii’s coffin, slaughtering the favored squad 9-0 to push their way into the College World Series. 

Pepperdine was seeded seventh out of eight teams in Omaha, meaning that, as had been the case for most of the year, nobody expected much out of the Waves. They were heavy underdogs against second-seeded Wichita State in the opener, as the Shockers were perennial contenders and boasted the top-ranked offense in the country in 1992. However, Pepperdine countered with ace Patrick Ahearne, who was nothing short of marvelous. Outside of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning, Ahearne was never in trouble and allowed just three singles and struck out nine in 7 ⅓ innings of work. He gave way to Steve Montgomery, who closed the game out with five straight outs. 

However, Pepperdine then had to deal with Texas, who was making their 26th appearance in Omaha, including a record sixteenth for head coach Cliff Gustafson. But Pepperdine’s Derek Wallace was up to the task, silencing the Longhorns over six innings of work, scattering seven singles. Montgomery finished with three clean innings of relief for the save, and Pepperdine was into the national semifinals. After the game, Gustafson made a comment about Pepperdine’s chances: “They’re going to be hard to beat if people can’t start putting up runs on them…I don’t remember the last time we were shut out [in the College World Series]”. 

Pepperdine drew Texas again in the semifinals, and they had two chances to beat the Longhorns, but the Waves only needed one. It was certainly a more dramatic victory, as Pepperdine did surrender a few runs, but it took a while. Steve Duda, the #3 starter for Pepperdine, one-hit Texas over six innings. He got one out in the seventh but hit a batter and gave up a single, giving way to Montgomery. Montgomery could not work his magic this time, as Texas bashed a three-run home run, ending Pepperdine’s record shutout streak in stunning fashion. The Longhorns manufactured another run and led 4-1 into the bottom of the 7th, but Pepperdine was not to be denied. After leaning on pitching and defense for two and a half games, the Waves needed some clutch hitting, and they got it from second baseman Steve Rodriguez.

 Rodriguez, all of 179 pounds, slammed a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh, flipping the script on the Longhorns and giving Pepperdine a 5-4 lead. Montgomery worked out of an eighth-inning jam and spun a perfect ninth to send the Waves to the title game. After the game, Gustafson commented “I’m not giving Pepperdine the title yet, but with Ahearn on the mound, I like their chances”. It was high praise considering Pepperdine had not even been considered a threat to win the tournament and had to face powerhouse Cal State Fullerton in the championship. 

The Titans were making their seventh appearance in Omaha, having played Division One baseball for only 17 seasons. They had already claimed two titles, and after ripping through the losers bracket and stunning #1 Miami twice in a row, Cal State Fullerton was ready to add a third championship to their trophy case. 

Pepperdine sent Ahearne to the mound, and he dazzled once more for the Waves, giving up just one unearned run on three hits over 6 ⅔ innings. Wallace came on and got the final out of the seventh inning, and the game went into the eighth with Pepperdine leading 3-1 on the strength of a two-run first inning and fifth-inning dinger from Eric Ekdahl. 

Montgomery entered for the Waves, and he got into immediate trouble, loading the bases with one out. He gave up a sacrifice fly, putting runners on the corners with two outs. And, after winning the previous game with a home run, Steve Rodriguez came up huge for Pepperdine in the field. Fullerton’s Tony Banks hit a sizzling grounder to Rodriguez’s left, who took a step and dove to snag the ball right at the lip of the outfield grass. Rodriguez bounced up and threw out Banks by a step to keep Pepperdine ahead by a run. Montgomery fired a perfect ninth, and Pepperdine’s improbable title run was complete. 

The Aftermath

Ahearne was one of four Pepperdine players to receive All-Tournament honors, with battery-mate Scott Volmer, first baseman Dan Melendez, and Rodriguez also being honored. They did see eight players, including five pitchers, drafted from their title team. Wallace was a first-round pick of the Cubs, and Melendez, Ahearne, Montgomery, and Rodriguez also heard their names called in the first seven rounds. Pepperdine has not made the College World Series since 1992, with a run to the 2014 Super Regionals the closest they’ve come.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #5: Steve Arlin’s rubber arm and 20 strikeouts

Much like our last two moments on our Top-7 NCAA Baseball moments countdown, this one is all about pitching. After reliving Ron Darling and Frank Viola’s epic 12-inning duel, and the ridiculous accomplishments of the 2006 Oregon State’s pitching staff during their title run, we turn our attention to another superhuman feat on the mound – bringing us back to 1965. 

Steve Arlin was a sophomore and the ace of the Ohio State pitching staff in 1965. The Buckeyes were relevant in the college baseball world for the first time in a long time, and Arlin was their ace up their sleeve. He posted a 13-2 record and had 165 strikeouts that season, which is still a program record, but it was one particular postseason performance that made Steve Arlin a household name. 

After a 3-0 run through their regional, Ohio State advanced to their second ever College World Series, winning their first two games in Omaha, with Arlin pitching both and giving up just two runs combined. However, Arlin needed a breather, and without him on the mound, the Buckeyes did not fare well, dropping a 9-4 decision to Arizona State.

Facing elimination, Ohio State manager Marty Karow called on Arlin for his third start in four days. The sophomore took the ball and spun an absolute dandy. Arlin took on Washington State, who had finished the year 31-6. He had held the Huskies to a single run two days earlier, when the Buckeyes triumphed 14-1, but this game was an entirely different tale. Arlin was even more dominant, but Ohio State could not scratch together even one run to back up their ace. 

Arlin racked up a bevy of strikeouts, but the game would go to extra innings at 0-0. Washington State’s bullpen continued to match zeroes with Arlin, and the game rattled on into the fifteenth inning. Arlin notched his nineteenth and twentieth strikeouts in the fifteenth, setting the stage for a Buckeyes’ walk-off in the bottom half of the inning. When it was all said and done, Arlin had pitched a 15-inning complete game victory, with his 20 strikeouts still setting an individual College World Series game victory, pushing Ohio State into the championship.

The Aftermath
Ohio State beat Arizona State without Arlin in the first game, forcing a winners-take-all contest. Having pitched over 30 innings in four days, Arlin was not able to start, but he did pitch the final two innings. It wasn’t enough as the Buckeyes fell 2-1 to the Sun Devils, settling for a 2nd-place finish. 

The following year, Arlin went 11-1 and pitched in five of six college world series games, leading the Buckeyes to their first and, to this date, only national championship. He’s the best pitcher to ever wear an Ohio State jersey, and his #22 was the first number to be retired by the Buckeyes. He had a six-year career in the MLB after being the thirteenth overall pick. He pitched five years for the Padres and a year for the Indians, retiring with 34 career wins and a 4.33 ERA.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #6: Oregon State pulls a miracle or six in 2006

Coming in at #6 on our countdown of Top 7 all-time postseason college baseball moments is Oregon State’s shocking run to the 2006 College World Series title. The run wasn’t stunning because of Oregon State’s ranking – they were a 1-seed and ranked 14th in the country heading into the NCAA Tournament. Rather, what makes this run special was the adversity the Beavers overcame once they reached Omaha, and the upsets they swung to claim the title. Read a little about their season, and check out some great videos below!

Junior Cole Gillepsie led the ‘06 Beavers with a .374 average and outstanding .493 on-base percentage. His thirteen home runs also led Oregon State, who was built on speed and great pitching. The Beavers had 79 stolen bases, including four players with at least eleven, to just 36 home runs. On the mound, they were led by ace Jonah Nickerson, who pitched his way to a 13-4 record and 2.24 ERA. Kevin Gunderson was a superb option out of the bullpen, with twenty saves and a 1.03 WHIP. 

The Beavers started their season just 12-7, which saw them slide off the national radar, but they rebounded by winning 27 of their final 34 games, claiming the Pac-10 record with a 16-7 mark in conference play. Their strong finish was rewarded with a #1 seed in the Corvallis regional, but the Beavers weren’t even close to being considered favorites, not even to make it to Omaha. 

Oregon State worked quickly in Corvallis, sliding past fourth-seeded Wright State 5-3 in the opener before dominating Kansas and Hawaii by a combined score of 23-6. The Beavers advanced on to the Super Regionals where they received a welcome gift. Rather than third-ranked Texas awaiting Oregon State, the Beavers were met with Stanford, the third-seed out of Texas’s regional. However, the Cardinal were no joke, having scored 42 runs in three games. 

Oregon State’s #2 pitcher – Dallas Buck – took the mound for the Beavers and put together a quality outing against Stanford’s lethal offense, limiting the Cardinal to three runs, which was enough for Oregon State to edge out a 4-3 victory. The second game was nowhere near as close, as Oregon State cruised to a 15-0 victory, riding a five-game winning streak into the College World Series. 

However, Oregon State’s momentum came to a screaming halt in their opener in Omaha. Buck took the mound again and got absolutely lit up by Miami, a team that did not even finish the season in the Top 25. The Hurricanes scorched the Beavers 11-1, sending Oregon State tumbling into the loser’s bracket. After giving up just twelve runs in five prior NCAA Tournament games, it looked like the elevated competition was far too much for the Pac-10 champs. But the Beavers’ run was just starting.

Oregon State trusted Nickerson with the ball against #7 Georgia in their first elimination game, and their ace delivered, leading the Beavers to a 5-3 victory. That led Oregon State right back to Miami, but this time, the Beavers emerged on top. Sophomore Mike Stutes delivered a gem, and Oregon State cruised to an 8-1 victory. The win put the Beavers into the semifinals, but they were going to have to beat Rice – the #2 team in the country – twice in order to advance. 

To start, with their top three starters unavailable, the Beavers turned to Daniel Turpen, who had started just two games all year. Turpen responded with a dazzling performance, firing 6 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just five hits. Oregon State won 5-0, earning a winners-take-all battle with the Owls. There, Oregon State could have given the ball to Buck on three days of rest, but given his struggles in the opening game, the Beavers went with Nickerson on just two days of rest. And there, Nickerson put forth the effort of a lifetime. Two days after he went seven innings and 114 pitches, Nickerson blew Rice away with 7 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball. Meanwhile, the Beavers scratched out single runs in the second and fifth innings to piece together the 2-0 win. The win completed their gritty run through the loser’s bracket – their championship appearance marked the first time a team from the Northwest had made it that far in 57 years. 

However, the road wasn’t over for the Beavers. After winning four straight elimination games, they found themselves back on the edge after dropping the opener of the best-of-three championship series, 4-3 to the North Carolina Tar Heels. It looked like Oregon State’s feel-good run would come to an end in a harsh way, as they fell behind 5-0 in the top of the fourth inning of Game 2. But Oregon State struck for seven runs in the bottom half of the inning, punctuated by Bill Rowe’s three-run home run. After getting the last out of the fourth inning, Kevin Gunderson finished the game with five innings of two-run ball, a season-high in innings and pitches for the Oregon State closer. Oregon State won 11-7. After the game, Gunderson confirmed he would be available for Game 3, saying “There’s no time to be sore”. 

With their entire pitching staff taxed, Oregon State went back to their rock, giving Nickerson the ball one more time. Nickerson performed once more, hurling 6 ⅔ innings, giving up just two unearned runs, but he would not get the decision, leaving with the game tied 2-2. At that point, Oregon State brought in Dallas Buck again, despite Buck having started Game 1. Buck got five outs for the Beavers, which was long enough for Oregon State to claw out an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out in the ninth, the Beavers brought in Gunderson, who collected the final two outs for his twentieth and biggest save of the year, bringing a conclusion to one of the most stunning runs in College World Series history. Oregon State went 6-0 in elimination games. 

The Aftermath
Nickerson was named the Tournament MVP, while Rowe, Gillespie, Gunderson, and infielder Shea McFeeley were added to the All-Tournament team. All five players, along with four others, were drafted in the 2006 MLB Draft, with Dallas Buck being the first Beaver off the board in the third round. Despite the major losses, Oregon State defended their title, winning it all again in 2007. 

Greatest NCAA Baseball Moments Countdown – #7: Darling and Viola fire 22 scoreless innings

To start our countdown of some of the top postseason moments in NCAA Baseball history, we have one of the greatest pitching duels to ever occur on a baseball diamond in an NCAA Tournament game between Yale and St. Johns. 

When: May 21, 1981

Who: Yale vs. St. Johns

What: NCAA Opening Round

Where: Yale Field 

The setting of the game hardly seemed like that of a postseason contest, as the two squads set to clash at Yale, with a modest crowd of 2,500 settled into the wooden bleachers set around the small field. But the pitchers that took the mound both had a reputation for being among the most feared hurlers in the game that year. Ron Darling took the ball for the Yale Bulldogs. An All-American, Darling was a two-way stud that year, having hit .386 and also pitched to a 4-3 record that didn’t do justice to his blazing fastball and sweeping slider, widely regarded as the best pitch in college baseball. Meanwhile, Frank Viola flashed a devastating curveball that led him to a 26-2 career record and a sparkling 1.67 ERA. In the Northeast regional, the loser of the opener game would have to make a four-game crawl out of the loser’s bracket, making this upcoming dual a pivotal one. 

Viola was excellent that day for the Red Storm, scattering seven hits and four walks. Although there was a Yale base runner or two in most innings, Viola rarely flirted with danger, with no Bulldog even touching third base until the ninth inning. On nearly any day, such a performance would be plenty enough to win with ease, but Viola had a worthy counterpart on the rubber. 

Darling had undoubtedly the tougher task, matched up against St. Johns, whose 31-2 record was largely fueled by one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the country. But Darling was up to the task – his only slip ups in the first nine frames were five walks, which he nullified with ten strikeouts. Not a single Red Storm batter recorded so much as a single against Darling, who was nearly untouchable. But, much like Viola, his extraordinary performance was not enough to win in nine innings, as the two teams battled on into the tenth inning. 

Both pitchers went out and put up another two scoreless frames, with Darling continuing to fire no-hit baseball. He tacked on four more strikeouts to his total, and the game entered the 12th inning with the 0-0 score still flashing on the scoreboard. 

In the 12th, the Red Storm finally broke through with a base hit, blooping a single over the shortstop’s head and into left field for a soft single. One out later, Darling was victimized by an error that put two men on and one out. While Darling was busy striking out the next batter, the Red Storm signaled for a steal of third base, putting runners on the corners. There, with two outs, St. Johns decided to go for it, figuring another hit against Darling may not come easily. They called for a delayed double steal. 

Darling said later that the play shouldn’t have happened because Yale normally doesn’t throw down to second base on such a steal. But with Darling falling off to the side after delivering a brutal slider, and the crowd making tons of noise as the tension rose, the Yale hurler failed to recognize that the runner was stealing and wasn’t in position to cut the throw to second. St. Johns scored on the delayed steal and took a 1-0 lead. Darling polished off the hitter with his 16th strikeout, and he exited to a standing ovation from the crowd at Yale field. Remarkably, Viola also emerged from the dugout to applaud Darling. Viola later called Darling’s performance the most dominant outing he ever saw. Viola’s day ended with 11 scoreless innings, as he gave way to the Red Storm’s bullpen, which easily retired Yale to secure the breathtaking 1-0 victory. 

The Aftermath
Yale’s tournament ended in their very next game. A lack of offense proved to be the fatal flaw for the Bulldogs as they scraped just two more runs against Central Michigan and fell 7-2, leading to an unceremonious exit from the NCAA Tournament.
St. Johns went 2-2 in the rest of the tournament, losing to the University of Maine and beating Central Michigan, setting up a championship with the Black Bears. After beating Maine 10-5 to set up a winner-takes-all finale, St. Johns faded badly, losing 15-0. 

However the real story of this game, evidently, was the pitchers, and their paths crossed again in the years to come. Both were high draft picks in that year’s MLB Draft, and by 1987, they had both won World Series; Darling started for the Mets in Game 7 of the infamous 1986 World Series, and Viola won the ‘87 World Series MVP a year later with the Twins. In 1989, Viola joined Darling on the Mets’ rotation.

February 19, 2020: College Baseball Power Rankings

Although pitchers and catchers may just be reporting for MLB, college baseball jumped right into the regular season this past weekend, and already there was some shakeup in expectations, with a few surprising results. Among these were Ole Miss and their series victory over Louisville, Vanderbilt’s 1-2 weekend. Here are our power rankings, based off of three ballots, which take into account both preseason expectations and rankings, as well as results from the opening weekend. 

Honorable Mention

  • UCLA
  • Ole Miss
  • Michigan

#10 – Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • The Bulldogs got a great start out of the gate with a series sweep of Wright State, with their pitching staff accumulating an ERA of under 3 over three games. The preseason #10, the Bulldogs didn’t exactly make a statement in beating an inferior opponent, but it was good, clean start to the season. 

#9 – LSU Tigers

  • LSU, a month removed from their football national championship, started their season with two dominating victores versus Indiana before a slip-up in the finale. Ranked #11 in the preseason, two of our ballots put the Tigers in the top-10, good for them to snag the #9 slot in this initial edition of the power rankings. 

#8 – Auburn Tigers 

  • Auburn had absolutely zero difficulty with Illinois-Chicago this past weekend, winning all four games at home. After a 5-3 victory in the opener, the Tigers took the final three games by a combined margin of 39-4. Much like Mississippi State, the series sweep over a low-caliber opponent does not justify much of a leap, so Auburn slots in at #8, where they were in the preseason rankings. 

#7 – Louisville Cardinals

  • Possibly the biggest disappointment out of any ranked team, Louisville won their opener with ease, 7-2, but gave up 15 runs over the next two games, as they dropped the series to the Ole Miss Rebels, starting their season off on the wrong note. The preseason #1, Louisville plummets to #7 in our initial power rankings. 

#6 – Arkansas Razorbacks 

  • The Razorbacks had a cupcake of an opening weekend, and they glided through their first three contests with very little difficulty, outscoring Eastern Illinois 27-5 en route to three victories. The preseason #7, Arkansas hops up to #6 thanks to Louisville’s slide. 

#5 – Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • It didn’t take Texas Tech long to get their bats warmed up, as they poured on 65 runs in four games versus two different opponents to crush their opening contests. Their pitching also only gave up 11 runs in their victories, allowing them to run away with each game by a decisive margin. They also jump up one spot from their preseason ranking of #6. 

#4 – Vanderbilt Commodores – 1 First Place Vote

  • Our ballots showed a little more mercy to Vanderbilt, who slides just two spots from their preseason perch at #2, despite a 1-2 weekend. The Commodores even nabbed a first place vote, after dropping a tight game to defending national runners up Michigan and a one-run defeat to Cal Poly, sandwiched around a dominating victory over UConn. The defending national champs have some easy games as they look to rebuild confidence after a tough first weekend. 

#3 – Georgia Bulldogs

  • The SEC doesn’t just run the football world, as they have several teams up near the top of the rankings in our baseball power rankings as well. #5 in the preseason, the Bulldogs jumped to #3 after a clean series sweep of Richmond. It certainly wasn’t a stiff challenge for Georgia, but their clean performance and the struggles of Louisville and Vanderbilit lifts the Bulldogs two spots. 

#2 – Florida Gators

  • Hosting Marshall, the Gators allowed the visitors no closer than seven runs in any game, scoring 34 times in three contests to throttle the Thundering Herd in a series sweep. They also jump two spots from their preseason spot at #4, and they figure to be a title contender in 2020. 

#1 – Miami Hurricanes – 2 First Place Votes

  • Sitting at #3 entering the year, the Hurricanes were the most direct benefactor of Louisville and Vanderbilt’s lackluster efforts in the first weekend, as they rocket up to the #1 spot in our initial power rankings. They handled Rutgers with ease in their opening series, and they’ll be looking ahead to a showdown with Florida next weekend.