“Four players fainted,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “I had a mild heart attack.”
Centerfielder Mark Payton said the bullpen looked like a bunch of caged monkeys. Reliever Travis Duke agreed, saying he was scaling the fence in the bullpen.
“A lot of us were like spider monkeys on the fence. Numerous fist pumps. A lot of yelling. Bullpen catcher lost his voice.”
There’s no word yet if the heaven and angels were singing, though, Garrido said he “put a long distance call in to get Cinco de Mayo recognized as a national day in honor of [C.J. Hinojosa].”
All that reaction came from one Hinojosa swing to lead off the seventh inning of Texas’ 1-0 victory over UC Irvine that kept the Longhorns alive in the 2014 College World Series.
Hinojosa got a 2-0 fastball from Evan Manarino that was up in the zone. The sophomore shortstop turned on the pitch and sent it sailing toward the left field bullpen.
Off the bat, Hinojosa thought he had hit a homer. He started with a slow home run trot. But then he remembered where he was playing — TD Ameritrade Park, college baseball’s equivalent of the T-800 Terminator sent to kill all flyballs.
“About halfway, I was like we’re playing in TD Ameritrade. It’s kind of like home. Maybe I should pick it up a little bit,” Hinojosa said. “I was like this ball better get out or I’m going to get chewed out.”
“Then I heard the crowd start screaming, so it must have got out.”
Hinojosa launched the first home run of the 2014 College World Series. According to Creighton SID Rob Anderson, it was the first homer at the CWS in 923 batters, 3,436 pitches and 672 outs.
There aren’t many true sluggers here during this year’s CWS. There’s no Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto or A.J. Reed — guys that can put the ball out of any ballpark. Only four hitters in the CWS were drafted in the first 200 pick. UC Irvine leadoff hitter Taylor Sparks was the biggest threat of those four.
That’s part of why there had yet to be a homer in the 2014 College World Series — something that continues to cause much consternation as the ESPN ratings dip.
But as is usually the case in baseball, the unexpected will strike at will, especially when you think it can’t .
With the UC Irvine/Texas elimination game still scoreless in the seventh inning Wednesday night, C.J. Hinojosa, a batter who had one homer in 233 at bats this season prior, was able to get the first ball over the outfield fence.
“I was just trying to see a good pitch. I was battling all night,” Hinojosa said. “I’ve seen it good, and I tried to put a good swing on it and it flew out. I think the wind made it change, so that was kind of lucky on our side.”
Thanks to Hinojosa’s homer, an outstanding diving catch by Payton to rob Sparks and a stellar outing from Chad Hollingsworth (8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K) in only his second start of the season, Texas eliminated the ‘Eaters. The Longhorns advanced to the championship round of its bracket where it will have the unenviable task of beating Vanderbilt twice to make the College World Series championship series.
We may or may not see another home run in the TD Ameritrade Park this season, but the dinger isn’t quite extinct. While it might still be an endangered species with the way the wind constantly blows in this time of year at TDAP, the home run hasn’t yet gone the way of the dinosaur.