The theme of non-power-conference schools dominating the college baseball landscape continued at the College Home Run Derby on Sunday, when Hagen Owenby from the Southern Conference's East Tennessee State Buccaneers won the title in Omaha, Nebraska.
It took place at TD Ameritrade Park, the same place where the Big South Conference's Coastal Carolina Chanticleers secured the College World Series title over the Pac-12's Arizona Wildcats on Thursday.
Following the non-power-conference theme, Owenby defeated Joe Davis from the American Athletic Conference's Houston Cougars. Owenby hit 13 home runs in the finals to edge out Davis by a single long ball. The Home Run Derby's official Twitter account passed along the final blast:
Eight batters competed in four-minute rounds rather than a format that featured a specific amount of "outs" to determine how long it would last. Each round featured a Quicken Loans money ball, which was worth two points compared to the one point every other home run was worth.
Each of the eight batters also had one timeout per round.
The top four home run totals advanced to the semifinals, and the top two combined totals from the first and second rounds advanced to the finals. The totals reset for the finals, where Davis and Owenby squared off in a four-minute winner-take-all showdown.
Here is a look at the eight competitors:
|2016 College Baseball Home Run Derby Participants|
|Gary Russo||Miami (Ohio)|
|Dylan Busby||Florida State|
|Brent Rooker||Mississippi State|
|Hagen Owenby||East Tennessee State|
|Colby Bortles||Ole Miss|
LSU's Greg Deichmann started the competition off with some fireworks, notching 13 home runs (two of which came off the Quicken Loans ball). In addition to the score he put up, the distance of his homers stood out, as Chandler Rome of the Advocate highlighted:
Miami (Ohio) star Gary Russo followed with 12 home runs, but Mississippi State's Brent Rooker initially turned heads in the first round. Rooker drilled 16 home runs, six of which came on his first six swings (and two came from the bonus ball).
Mississippi State Baseball had some fun with the performance:
The SEC Network shared one of his moonshots:
It didn't take long for someone to outshine Rooker in the first round, though. Owenby started out with six home runs in a row as well and posted an all-time record with 23 first-round homers (including the two he received for the bonus ball).
The Home Run Derby's official Twitter account shared his beautiful swing:
Elsewhere, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' brother, Ole Miss slugger Colby Bortles, finished with 10 home runs and missed the second round, but Davis and Lamar's Reid Russell each hit enough to move on:
|Top 1st-Round Performers|
Owenby cooled off in the second round with 10 home runs, but his impressive first round gave him a total of 33 and plenty of breathing room over the other three hitters. Rome reacted to the East Tennessee State slugger's impressive power display:
Rooker followed his initial 16 home runs with 13 more to bring his total to a respectable 29, and teammate Dakota Hudson approved of the effort:
However, the 29 didn't hold up for a single batter, as Davis connected with 16 long balls to bring his total to 31.
The Home Run Derby captured one of the majestic homers that helped him reach the finals:
Russell fell just short with 30 points after he picked up two more with the bonus ball, but it wasn't enough to eclipse the two top sluggers of the evening:
|Player||Total Home Runs in 1st 2 Rounds|
Davis posted 12 home runs to start the finals and capped off the effort with two points from the money ball to put the pressure on Owenby's shoulders. The East Tennessee State star delivered and sent his 13th dinger into the Nebraska air within the final 10 seconds of the round to secure the win.
The Home Run Derby shared a look at the trophy Owenby earned with his performance:
Owenby discussed how he was able to win the contest on the ESPN 2 broadcast, via Local 8 in Knoxville, Tennessee: "I have no idea. My coach, I have to give it all up to him. He threw some miraculous BP (batting practice). I don't know. I can't explain it."
The "miraculous" pitches may have helped, but it was Owenby's powerful swing that won him the title on Sunday.