OMAHA, Neb. -- Where exactly does one start when it comes to the twists and turns, the devastation and elation, and more from Saturday's thrilling bracket championship game between Vanderbilt and Texas, a contest that ended with the Commodores winning 4-3 in 10 innings and playing for their first national title in school history.
It's a good hour or so since the game completed, and my nerves are still racing. That only tells part of the story of what easily was the best game of the 2014 College World Series thus far.
As Texas and Vanderbilt played a thrilling nine innings at TD Ameritrade Park, the two hard-nosed clubs entered the 10th inning gridlocked at 3-3. Texas shortstop C.J. Hinojosa, the club's hottest hitter in the postseason led off the inning, and worked the count from Vandy reliever Hayden Stone to 2-2 before tattooing a ball deep into the right-center field gap.
The ball traveling, there were gasps in the press box. Surely there was no way right fielder Rhett Wiseman was going to get to the ball. If not, the Longhorns start the inning with a runner on second base and are in terrific shape to take a lead over Vanderbilt, just three outs away from the title series. If he makes the catch, Vandy clearly has the momentum, and the opposite is the likely outcome.
Hat flying off his head, Wiseman raced to the gap and made the play to rob Hinojosa of extra bases. How sure was Stone the ball would fall for a double or triple? He said during the press conference he was headed over to back up third baseman Tyler Campbell.
"We talked in the scouting report about how Hinojosa swung the bat very well and he crushed a ball down the line. But his ability to drive the ball in particular to the right-center gap," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "And Rhett was playing standard depth in the outfield. He wasn't playing shallow, but he had to run and take off and make the catch over his shoulder. I mean, it was a huge play at the time, and an emotional tough catch. It was just a great play."
Wiseman, who was serenaded with "Happy Birthday" from Vanderbilt fans as he exited the ballpark, his birthday on Sunday, also weighed in on his catch that served as the best birthday present one could ask for.
"You know how this park plays, and ironically, he [C.J.] and he was the only one who had gotten the ball out of here so far," Wiseman said. "I mean, the ball hung up there long enough we were luckily in position to have a shot at it. It just hung up there long enough."
In the bottom of the 10th, Vanderbilt began the frame with two quick outs, leading us to believe we might be in for more free baseball. However, the Commodores weren't done.
The hero of the night, Rhett Wiseman, who finished the contest with two hits, too, had a single and a stolen base before Texas righthanded pitcher John Curtiss walked Ro Coleman and hit Karl Ellison to load the bases with two outs.
That brought up third baseman Tyler Campbell. Yeah, that Tyler Campbell. The one who entered the College World Series with a limited number of at bats and replaced usual third baseman Xavier Turner after he was suspended for the duration of the CWS just a couple of days ago.
Campbell made a terrific defensive play earlier in the contest, robbing Texas of at least a run when he helped turn a bases-loaded 5-4-3 double play to get speedy 'Horns outfielder Ben Johnson out at first, a play that proved to be huge. But that play couldn't compare to the moment Campbell hit a tapper on the left side of the Texas infield with bases loaded, a 1-1 count and two outs, winning run on third. Texas shortstop C.J. Hinojosa made a good play on the ball and threw to first.
Campbell was safe. Vanderbilt had won. Celebration ensued.
"That's what these moments are about when kids get a chance that have been practicing all year but just haven't been in a game and then all of a sudden have their names called," Corbin said. "It takes a great deal of patience, and when you get in there, it takes a great deal of controlled emotions. And Tyler's been able to do that. Everyone is just so happy for this kid."
Vanderbilt has at least one more hero from this game, freshman righthanded pitcher Hayden Stone. Vandy sophomore righty Carson Fulmer started against the Longhorns, and just wasn't his usual self, lacking command and composure at times, and leaving the game after walking six and allowing two runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Stone, who flashed a filthy mid-80s slider, stymied the Longhorns the rest of the way, racking up eight strikeouts and allowing a run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings, cementing himself as forever a legend and key part to Vanderbilt's magical run to the title series.
"He has the right temperament. He has the right heartbeat," Corbin said about Stone. "You put him on the mound and bases are loaded and I say here you go again Hayden. He said yep, let's go. I don't mean to make it sound simple, but he's got a very good temperament for that part of the game and he believes in himself and all the pitches he throws."
With the win over the Longhorns, the Commodores will play for a major sports national title for the first time in school history.
That reality set in for Corbin as Campbell and the rest of his players celebrated at first base. Corbin didn't join the melee on the baseball field. Instead, he was gazing at the celebration from the dugout, in total awe of his players.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Corbin said. "I said it last week, but this is like you're the parent and you're watching the kids open Christmas presents.
"You don't want to hustle under the tree and start opening yours with them."
After the post-game press conference, I made a point to show Corbin the Wiseman catch from the top of the 10th inning.
"Wow, just wow," he said
Wow, indeed, coach.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Player of the game: Rhett Wiseman, of, Vanderbilt
Turning point: What a game this was, so many twists and turns. Texas and Vanderbilt were tied 3-3 going to the 10th inning with talented freshman righthanded pitcher Hayden Stone still on the mound for the Commodores. Looking to grab the momentum and go-ahead run in the 10th, the Longhorns began the inning with shortstop C.J. Hinojosa, the team's hottest hitter in the postseason. Hinojosa worked the Stone count to 2-2 before smashing a ball into the right-center field gap. Vanderbilt outfielder Rhett Wiseman somehow made a perfect angle on the ball, turned up his speed and made a beautiful, miraculous catch to retire Hinojosa. Stone didn't have trouble the rest of the frame, and the 'Dores won the game in the bottom of the inning.
Did you know? Tyler Campbell, who had the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the 10th inning on the infield hit. It was just his third RBI of the year in only his third start.