The Webster University baseball team is headed to its first-ever College World Series.
photo courtesy of Webster University Athletics Department (click for larger version)
May 25, 2012With his team clinging to a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, Webster University senior right-hander David Mueller, who grew up in Webster Groves, released the most important two-seam fastball of his life.
The two-out, full-count pitch started high out of Mueller's hand. With runners already on first and second, the bases would be loaded for Birmingham-Southern College as long as center fielder Trey Chambers kept his bat on his shoulder.
But Chambers couldn't check his swing. Mueller tossed his glove into the air and tossed senior catcher Matt Moore to the ground. The Webster Gorloks baseball team converged near the mound and began a well-earned and long-awaited dog pile.
Webster's win over Birmingham-Southern -- the sixth-ranked team in the country -- on Saturday, May 19 in Millington, Tenn., meant that for the first time in program history, the Gorloks would be going to the NCAA Division III College World Series. Webster won four games in four days in Tennessee to claim the Central Regional championship and one of eight spots in the World Series, which begins Friday, May 25 in Appleton, Wis.
Mueller said the pressurized moment didn't overwhelm him because he's been dreaming of being in that exact position his entire life.
"I've been throwing with my dad in the backyard since I was 4 or whenever I started pitching," Mueller said. "We would always end with 3-2, two outs, bases loaded, seventh game of the World Series. It wasn't quite the same, but to go to the World Series, it's a big pressure situation.
"I was talking to my dad after the game and he said, 'You always threw a strike.' I think we've been preparing for this my whole life. It's kind of surreal."
For coach Bill Kurich, the game-winning moment was a culmination of the work he's put in to construct a winning program at Webster. In his six years of coaching the Gorloks, Kurich has compiled a 192-80 record. Webster has appeared in five of the past six NCAA tournaments but never advanced to the World Series until now.
"It was obviously a great feeling," Kurich said. "I'm happy for the guys, especially the seniors who have put a lot of time and hard work in. They've done everything I've asked of them and more -- they've become the backbone of our program. This year, we played exceptionally well when we got to the Regional. It was great to finally win one."
The Gorloks knocked off cross-town rival and 27th-ranked Washington University, 22nd-ranked DePauw University and twice beat Birmingham-Southern to earn a trip to the World Series. Webster will take on seventh-ranked Wheaton College (Mass.) on May 25 in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament. Mueller will start that game.
"(Making the World Series) means the world," Mueller said. "I've been working my whole life to achieve something like this. This is a dream come true."