SHOT HEARD ’ROUND THE (COLLEGE) WORLD (1996)
Only one College World Series — the 1996 edition — has ended with a home run, so obviously, it will remain the only one in the history of Rosenblatt. Warren Morris, Louisiana State’s No. 9 hitter, came to the plate with the Tigers down a run to Miami in the bottom of the ninth. His goal was to put the ball in play somewhere and set the table for the top of the order. Instead, Morris went down and got a breaking ball, slapping it just over the fence in right field. Morris said he did not realize it was gone until he saw his first base coach leap into the air — and then noticed Miami’s players were lying on the ground in agony. Morris had been injured in the weeks leading up to Omaha, and it was his first home run of the season. It delivered a 9–8 victory and an NCAA title. “I don’t think it changed me,” he said, “but it’s definitely changed my life.”
MERRIFIELD BRINGS ’BLATT CURTAIN DOWN (2010)
Flashbulbs started lighting the Nebraska night in the ninth inning of a 1–1 game. Fans were figuring out that a South Carolina longball against UCLA would not only match Morris’ moment but also deliver quite the swan song for the College World Series at Rosenblatt. It took until the 11th inning, and it was not a home run, but the Gamecocks did eventually win with a walk-off. Scott Wingo represented the winning run at third base, with one out. UCLA could have walked Whit Merrifield and Jackie Bradley Jr. to set up a double play. Instead, the Bruins pitched to Merrifield. Big mistake. He lined a 2-0 pitch into right field, sending Wingo home and the Gamecocks into euphoria. It was the school’s first men’s championship — and, to add to the impact of the moment, the team was playing in memory of a 7-year-old boy, Bayler Teal, who had lost his fight with cancer the week before. “I’ve thought about it many times,” South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. “To end it that way, it was special.”
SLEIGHT OF HAND (1982)
Miami learned a fake pickoff play at the College World Series with no plans of using it. In initial application, it was just a means for the Hurricanes’ coaches to keep their players relaxed. Playing speedy Wichita State later in the series, Miami actually thought it would give deception a try after all. Canes pitcher Mike Kasprzak “fired” to first, where Steve Lusby sold a desperate attempt to flag down an errant “throw.” The ball “rolled” down toward the bullpen, where Miami’s relievers — and even its ballgirls — pretended to play dodgeball. Wichita’s Phil Stephenson was fooled, as were many in the ballpark. Stephenson, an All-American, made a move toward second, at which point Kasprzak revealed he still had the ball. Stephenson was dead meat, out and embarrassed. Miami went on to win the national title, fueled by the fun of what became known as the “Grand Illusion.”
ROBIN VENTURA GOES STREAKING (1987)
Robin Ventura’s hit streak started well before he reached the Omaha stage with his Oklahoma State teammates. But it hit fever pitch, and resulted in the mention of his name along with Joe DiMaggio’s, while the Cowboys were at Rosenblatt. Ventura passed DiMaggio’s magic number, getting to 57 games with a hit in the CWS opener against Arizona State. He extended the streak to 58 the following game. In fact, one of the more notable aspects of Ventura’s streak is how it ended. Though Ventura had no qualms with it, some contend he should have been awarded an infield single in what would have been game No. 59, against Stanford. Instead, the play, in the ninth inning, went as a two-base error. Even so, Ventura’s streak brought the College World Series a good deal of attention. Ventura went on to a solid Major League career that included two All-Star selections and six Gold Gloves.