Assistant coach Eddie Smith tackled his boss, Brian O’Connor. Players piled on each other in a joyous heap that associate head coach Kevin McMullan joined a moment later.
In the stands and on the concourse, barely able to believe the drama they had just witnessed, fans stood and cheered, their arms and voices raised in triumph, tears of joy in the eyes of some.
“U-V-A! U-V-A! U-V-A!”
That chant broke out at Davenport Field, to be followed by another: “Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!” The dogpile broke up, but none of the players moved toward the locker room.
Nobody wanted this party to end. Photographers snapped shot after shot. As “All I Do Is Win” played over the P.A. system, players ran to the foot of the left-field bleachers, where they leaped to exchange high-fives with fans, and then repeated that scene in right field. The children of O’Connor, McMullan and pitching coach Karl Kuhn joined their fathers on the field for hugs and kisses.
On and on it went Monday night, to the delight of the UVA fans who packed the stadium for the third consecutive day of this NCAA super regional. The only thing more remarkable than the celebration at Davenport, in fact, was the game that preceded it.
“Absolutely the most thrilling, greatest win in UVA baseball history,” O’Connor said. “You couldn’t have written a script better than this.”
In the final game of this best-of-three series, the Wahoos scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to stun UC Irvine, 3-2, and clinch a spot in the College World Series for the second time in three seasons.
“Wow!” O’Connor said to open his postgame press conference. “I guess you can never doubt this club.”