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UCSB’s doing the traditional celebratory dog pile after experiencing the greatest moment in their school’s history. Photo courtesy of celebcafe.com

 

UC SANTA BARBARA’S GAUCHOS WILL BE HEADING TO OMAHA AFTER WINNING THEIR SUPER REGIONAL IN THE MOST EXCITING, STORYBOOK FASHION POSSIBLE.

 

In 1951, Bobby Thomson, with his New York Giants down two runs to their hated rival Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 3 of their best-of-three playoff, hit a three-run home run off Ralph Branca in the Polo Grounds to win the pennant, completing a run which started with the Giants being 13 and a half games back.

As well as triggering perhaps the most famous broadcasting call in sports history courtesy of Russ Hodges:

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

In 1988, Kirk Gibson, nursing both an injured knee and a hamstring bad enough to keep him out of the lineup for Game 1 of the World Series, literally limped to the plate as a pinch-hitter – against the best relief pitcher in baseball, Dennis Eckersley – hit a two-run home run off a 3-2 pitch to give his Los Angeles Dodgers a shocking 5-4 upset of the heavily favored Oakland A’s, sparking them to an eventual championship as that homer propelled the Dodgers to win the championship in five games.

In 1993, Joe Carter blasted a ball down the left field line off of the Philadelphia Phillies’ hard-throwing reliever Mitch Williams, the ball carrying over the fence and giving Carter’s team, the Toronto Blue Jays, the world championship; only the second time the World Series ended with a home run.

 

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U.C. Santa Barbara’s newly-crowned biggest sports hero: Sam Cohen rounding third during his College World Series-clinching grand slam home run. Photo courtesy of wthr.com

 

Twenty-three years later, a 19 year-old freshman back-up catcher for UC Santa Barbara, a mid-major school from a Big West Conference in which his Gauchos team finished in third place,

Hailing from a small suburban town in Orange County,

Who had all of 26 at-bats and one home run all season,

With his team down three runs and to their last two outs to the nation’s second overall seed and facing a relief ace whose fast ball reaches 100 miles an hour and more,

With the bases loaded,

While on the road in front of a hostile crowd – in hot and humid weather no less,

Golfed a low and inside change-up over the right field wall, thus providing the greatest moment not only in UC Santa Barbara baseball history, but in the history of that institution of higher learning in general.

As well as joining Thomson, Gibson, and Carter in hitting the most significant home runs ever.

“I’m still in a little bit of a shock,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts commented afterwards.

That homer that Sam Cohen hit off of Louisville’s Zack Burdi on Sunday was certainly the most epic dinger in college baseball history, sending his Gauchos to the College World Series for the first time, where they will open against Oklahoma State.

It also brought much national publicity to a school that pretty much had none before, that had and still has a reputation having one of the biggest “party” atmospheres in the country as it once ranked second to Florida State among party schools in a poll.

Cohen’s home run will undoubtedly lift UCSB’s community up and bring unprecedented pride to a school that’s famous for having some of its dorms located right next to the beach.

 

A clip of arguably the most famous home run in college baseball history: Sam Cohen’s grand slam home run, shocking Louisville and punching UC Santa Barbara’s ticket to the College World Series

 

As for their chances in the College World Series going forward…

I’ll put it like this:

If I were the Gauchos’ coach, I would drill these two notions into their gray matters…

“We are playing with house money!”

“We have nothing to lose!”

Which they truly are as far as house money and which they truly don’t as far as anything to lose as being a third place team from a mid-major conference, nobody thought they would get past the regionals.

And outside of Santa Barbara and Isla Vista, nobody thought they could or would beat the team that won 50 games in the regular season.

Who was one of the favorites to win the national championship.

In their house.

In front of nearly 5,000 of their rabid red-clad fans.

But those Gauchos did.

 

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The swing that put UC Santa Barbara on the collegiate sports map once and for all! Photo courtesy of bleacher report.com

 

And now that they’ll be in Omaha starting this weekend, that “Nothing To Lose” mindset will be key.

The way UCSB is playing right now, and after what has happened not only in Louisville, but throughout this postseason,

Let’s put it this way – I saw a blue and gold t-shirt that said “WHY NOT US” on TV after UCSB shocked college baseball.

That’s exactly my attitude regarding this team, as I see no reason why those Argentinian Cowboys (what Gauchos are) can’t go far in this College World Series if not win it.

On a personal note, this is a college that my mother wanted me to go to, where I applied and was accepted only to choose UCLA as being a Bruin was my dream.

The fact that I matriculated in Westwood rather than in Goleta hasn’t changed my feelings of pride for that seaside university.

I’ll certainly be rooting for them.

And if they do shock the world again and win what would be only the third NCAA title of any kind for that institution,

No one will be more pleased than I.

My message to young Mr. Cohen: Keep smiling!

Unless it’s to win the College World Series or the MLB World Series, you’ll never hit a more important home run in your life!

 

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Ecstatic Gauchos welcoming Sam Cohen (#30) after hitting the home run heard round Santa Barbara, sending them to their first College World Series. Photo courtesy of d1baseball.com

 

 

 

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