College World Series:
OMAHA, Neb. — John Norwood’s home run in the top of the eighth inning gave Vanderbilt the lead, and the Commodores beat Virginia 3-2 on Wednesday night for their first national championship.
Norwood turned on Nick Howard’s 97 mph fastball and sent it into the left field bullpen to break a 2-2 tie in the third and deciding game of the College World Series finals.
It was Norwood’s third homer of the year, his first since April 19, and Vanderbilt’s first since May 16. It also was only the third home run in 16 CWS games and the 22nd in 72 games by the Commodores (51-21).
The Cavaliers (53-16) loaded the bases with one out in the eighth when Adam Ravenelle hit Kenny Towns. But Mike Papi was forced out at home on a chopper to Ravenelle, and Brandon Downes grounded out.
The title, secured when Ravenelle struck out Daniel Pinero, is Vanderbilt’s first in a men’s sport. The school’s only other title came in women’s bowling in 2007.
Hayden Stone (4-0) relieved Carson Fulmer with one out in the sixth and allowed two hits before turning the game over to Ravenelle after Virginia’s first two batters reached in the eighth. Ravenelle earned his third save of the CWS.
Howard (2-2) came on in the eighth after Artie Lewicki had pitched six innings of four-hit relief.
Virginia broke through against Fulmer to tie it 2-2 in the sixth when Kenny Towns’ bases-loaded grounder hit shortstop Vince Conde’s glove and bounced off for an error.
Vanderbilt led 1-0 in the first after Virginia catcher Robbie Coman sailed a throw into center field trying to catch Bryan Reynolds stealing. Dansby Swanson, who was going to third on the double steal, continued home.
Another error in the sixth set up Vanderbilt’s second run. Norwood grounded to third for an infield single and wound up on second after Towns’ throw in the dirt skipped past first baseman Mike Papi. Norwood later came home on Conde’s deep grounder to shortstop.
Vanderbilt went 2-2 in its only previous CWS appearance, in 2011. Coach Tim Corbin figured his 2013 team, which won 54 games with a veteran lineup, would have had a better chance to make it Omaha. But that team was swept in super regionals by Louisville.
The Commodores went over 50 wins again this year with four sophomores and two freshmen in the everyday lineup. Sophomore pitchers Fulmer and Walker Buehler were strong complements to first-round draft pick Tyler Beede.
Vandy finished third in the SEC East and went into the NCAA tournament off losses in four of six games. The Commodores regrouped, won three straight in regionals and a three-game super regional against Stanford.