The 2014 college baseball season came to a conclusion in dramatic fashion on Wednesday with the Vanderbilt Commodores winning their first College World Series title by defeating the Virginia Cavaliers with a late-inning home run and stellar pitching.
Even though the year is over, there is still much to discuss. While this won't be any comfort for the Cavaliers, finding a loser in this wonderful three-game series is hard to do because it was as thrilling and exciting as any College World Series in recent memory.
Instead of focusing on the negatives, like TD Ameritrade Park mostly being an abyss where offense goes to die, we wanted to highlight the positives from the marvelous series that just concluded and what it means.
Carson Fulmer, Future Top-5 Pick?
Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin had a difficult decision to make after his team lost Game 2. He could go with No. 1 starter Carson Fulmer, who didn't look good with six walks in 4.1 innings against Texas three days earlier, or go to Tyler Ferguson on full rest after he threw just 0.2 innings against Texas.
Corbin opted to go with Fulmer, who is expected to be a high pick in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. The right-hander rewarded his coach's faith and opened a lot of eyes with 5.1 innings of three-hit ball. Jim Callis of MLB.com was pumping up Fulmer early on in the game on Twitter:
There's little doubt Fulmer goes in the first round next year, but he's got to overcome the stigma that goes with being 5'11" and 195 pounds. Scouts are going to question his ability to generate plane on the fastball, and his control all year (41 walks in 91 innings) left a lot to be desired.
At the same time, Fulmer stepped up on short rest in the biggest game of his career against a lineup that featured two Day 1 picks in the 2014 MLB draft (Mike Papi and Derek Fisher).
He might also benefit from Oakland A's right-hander Sonny Gray, who pitched at Vanderbilt and had to deal with the same questions about his size prior to the 2011 draft.
There's plenty of time for Fulmer to prove his size won't be an issue at the professional level next year. He made a loud, emphatic statement on Wednesday with his effort against Virginia on short rest.
Tim Corbin Validates Years of Success
No one was asking for Corbin's head at Vanderbilt, but it's alarming how he'd failed to produce a championship with all the talent he has been able to recruit to the program since taking over as coach in 2003.
In his 12 years at the helm, Corbin has coached eight first-round picks, including 2007's No. 1 overall selection, David Price. The Commodores have made it to the NCAA tournament every year since 2006 and were the No. 2 overall seed in last year's field before losing to Louisville in the super regionals.
All those years of success culminated in grand fashion with Vanderbilt's victory and Corbin's crowning achievement with the program, leading to his great quote after the game, courtesy of PerfectGame.org's Kendall Rogers:
Making the day even better was how Corbin pushed all the right buttons. He started Fulmer on short rest, which worked brilliantly, and tweaked the lineup to generate more offense by John Norwood in the clean-up spot.
The latter move didn't make much difference until the eighth inning, when Norwood blasted a one-out homer off Nick Howard to put the Commodores ahead. Corbin did everything in his power to secure this title, and the plan came together magnificently.
Brian Miller Knows How to Make a Memorable Win Even Better
Taking a page from former Boise State running back Ian Johnson, Vanderbilt relief pitcher Brian Miller decided to celebrate his team's victory by proposing to his girlfriend, Megan Bonds, on the field.
Making the proposal even better is the fact that Miller's teammates were standing behind him and cheered after she said yes. Proposals at sporting events get a bad rap, though it's occasionally justified, like when someone does it on the big screen. That's tacky and shows a lack of imagination.
Something like Miller's proposal, while not necessarily available to everyone because you have to be an athlete to get on the field, is more inventive because it's taking a moment of pure ecstasy and trying to turn it into an overwhelming wave of euphoria.
The cynic in me likes to ask what Miller would have done if Vanderbilt had lost the game, but that's a scenario no one has to worry about because the Commodores took care of business.
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