After beating Stanford four in row (three in the regular season and once here in Omaha), the Titans lost two in a row when it mattered most.
Ouch. And that's emotionally and physically, after seeing Justin ``Red'' Turner go down in a horrific HBP. Hopefully, he's OK.
If we take a step back, we'll see a program that has finished third nationally twice since 2001. But for now, the pain of defeat is almost too much to bear.
Here's how the final day of the 2003 looked to two fans in the stands of Rosenblatt Stadium:
6:54 (CT): Red, squaring to bunt, gets hit almost flush in the cheek/mouth by Stanford pitcher Matt Manship. The stadium goes silent in horror as our freshman sensation writhes in agony, not only from the HBP but from turning his ankle trying to get out of the way. He walks off the field and gets a huge ovation.
6:58: Showing he's as smart as talented, Shane Costa's heads-up bunt single loads the bases, and sets up back-to-back sacrifice flies.
7:01: On a 1-2 pitch, P.J. Pilittere lofts an sacrifice fly to right fielder Carlos Quentin who overthrows everyone. Nice play. That allows all runners to move up, and Richie Burgos hits another sac fly.
7:09: Kurt Suzuki picks off Jed Lowrie to end the fourth inning. Can't you lose a scholarship (or whatever 11.7 divided by 25 is) for that? And at Stanford, that can be a lot of money.
7:14: Red, with mom Betsy by his side, leaves the field on a cart, and the gracious Rosenblatt fans give him a big hand. The same cart is used to drag the infield moments later.
7:25: A friend of David Mannings calls his cell phone."Did you hear Adam Sandler's getting married on Saturday in Malibu? And get this, it'll be at the $22 million home of Dick Clark." We could use a baseball version of "The Water Boy."
7:33: P.J. hits a blooper down the right-field line that's clearly fair, but the umps miss it. First base coach Chad Baum, who TitanCentral.com can't remember ever arguing a call, is beside himself. But don't worry Chad, it's going to work out soon.
7:36: P.J. lines a shot into the right-center field gap that Quentin fails to cut off, turning a single into a triple. It was P.J.'s first three-bagger of 2003. But we'll be using the word "first" again later, and it won't be pleasant.
7:51-7:59: The umps and NCAA officials, in a meeting that looked more crowded than Bud Selig's conference to call the 2002 All-Star Game tie, gather to discuss Jason Windsor's injured, bleeding right hand. He's allowed to stay in.
7:59: The crowd goes nuts doing the "YMCA" dance. You wonder if the Heartland fans really know what the song's about -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
8:10: Chad "Chief" Cordero enters with two outs in the sixth inning, and fans in the Titans section murmur. Can Chief get 10 outs? It'll likely be one of the most talked about moves since Augie's sacrifice bunt in front of Phil Nevin in the 1992 title game. Our take: You can't blame Coach George Horton for playing his best card in this special game (Joe Torre doesn't blink using Mariano Riveria for 2+ innings in the World Series). The reasonable contrary view: Why not use Spider or another one of our trusted middle relievers?
8:19: Justin Smyres lines a single to right and the Titans lead, 5-3. Baserunner Jason Corapci was going to hold at 3B, but Quentin kicks it to allow JC to score. The Titans come out to greet JC, including Travis Ingle who motions out to right field pointing to his right arm. Travis was either congratulating Justin on the RBI hit, which would be great. Or he was ridiculing hot dog RF Quentin (remember he pulled that cocky look-at-me, point-at-my-arm act on Sunday), which would be even better.
8:36: On a 1-2 pitch, Jonny Ash becomes our 1978 Bucky Dent, our 1985 Ozzie Smith. He takes Chief deep into the right field stands and we're tied 5-5. It was Ash's first home run of the season.
9:20: Bases loaded. Two outs. A 3-2 pitch. And Kyle Boyer flies to center to end the eighth. We end up 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. You can't say we didn't have our chances.
9:28: A local shirtless punk, not even with the guts to strip naked, runs on to the field. A Douglas County Sheriff's deputy takes him down in a spectacular open-field hit. Ray Lewis (at least an unarmed Ray Lewis) would have been proud.
9:38: Red, on crutches, limps back into our dugout. He gets a hug from Coach Horton. Will this give us the emotional lift we need? He's got a beach ball-sized swelling on his lip. It hurts just looking.
9:42: Danny Putnam takes Darric Merrell deep in the 10th inning. It's 7-5 Stanford, and reality is setting in for our Titans.
10:00: Burgos flies to center and the Cardinal dogpile in center field. P.J., the ultimate competitor who walked with two outs, falls to his hands and knees like he's been shot. We feel your pain, P.J. After shaking hands with Stanford, the Titans leave the field to appreciative cheers. Costa and Red are the last to leave the field. Thanks for the memories, guys. It was a great 2003 ride.
Now we have two final words: Go Rice.