Norwood moves up in lineup, takes a fastball out of park for title-winning blast

It wasn’t a walk-off, but John Norwood’s eighth-inning home run Wednesday ensured that Vanderbilt did not walk away from the 2014 College World Series empty-handed.

The Commodores left Omaha with the NCAA championship trophy.

Norwood, a junior center fielder, delivered the decisive run with a solo shot to left field that was the difference in Vanderbilt’s 3-2 victory over Virginia in the decisive game of the best-of-three championship series.

“He put a heck of a swing on an elevated fastball,” second baseman Dansby Swanson, the CWS most outstanding player, said. “He hit it and he knew it was gone.”

It was VU’s only home run in seven games at this year’s CWS and its first since Zander Wiel hit one during the final weekend of conference play.

For his career, Norwood had four home runs in his career, two this season, before he got a hold of a fastball from Virginia closer Nick Howard, the 19th overall pick in this year’s Major League Baseball draft and the Atlantic Coast Conference record holder for saves in a season.

“Johnny’s strength and bat speed matched with the velocity of Howard … I mean, that doesn’t happen to [Howard],” coach Tim Corbin said. “A 97 mile-per-hour fastball and someone to turn it around like that takes a great amount of ability.”

Norwood produced his share of runs throughout the CWS. He drove in six runs in seven games at Omaha, including one in each of the last four. He also had four multi-hit games.

His recent play prompted Corbin to bat Norwood fourth for the first time all season Wednesday. In that spot he was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and one RBI – courtesy of one unforgettable home run.

“It’s an amazing feeling but it’s not just myself,” Norwood said. “You don’t get there without the rest of your team and that’s the biggest thing.”