Husker Hero

The dramatic, the emphatic, the ecstatic and the problematic. No, it's not an episode of L.A. Law, it's one game in the Super Regional. A game that means, one goes to the College World Series and the other goes home. Today's game had a bevy of impact players for NU, but no other delivered a bigger impact than Justin Seely. Seely turned out to be NU's most efficient hitter, but it was one gigantic hit that stole the show and helped move Nebraska onto Omaha.

This series has developed as most sports' fans would wish. To and fro, back and forth, neither gladiator giving quarter or expecting such in return. NU takes the first game on a brilliant Komine show from the mound, Richmond takes the second with some very opportunistic hitting by one that is most easily called, Vito and the last game, ahhhhh, the last game, well, not even L.A. Law could write this script. This only happens for real.

Coming into this game, even Justin will admit that a performance like he had today against Richmond wasn't necessarily in the game plan, as he was looking to go out there and just get a few things done. "I have a tendency to strike out some and I hadn't been hitting the ball (lately) real well" Seely said. That factor simply added to the incredible achievements of today, but for on-lookers pointing at Seely as the X-factor in moving NU to the CWS, they can think of two key at-bats.

With Nebraska down an early deuce, Seely comes up to plate in the second inning simply trying to get on base. What he may have ended up doing though is singlehandedly taking Richmond's starter (Mike McGirr) to his limits in terms of pitches and attrition. For 13 pitches, Seely battled McGirr, steady in the box, disciplined as a Van Horn club usually is and making the pitcher come to him, Seely not relenting for a second. "That's what we try to do every game", Seely said, "but it doesn't always work out like that". It didn't yesterday as Nebraska seemed prone to first-pitch swings, but in this game, NU bats were still, waiting for that pitch that they could do something with. With Seely, this at-bat was a battle, but one he was actually quite comfortable with. "I felt pretty good about it, because I was seeing everything out of his hand pretty well." Seely stated. "I had a good feeling that if I got a good pitch to handle, I would be able to hit it pretty good, but he was making good pitches, so I wanted to just get the ball in play."

Seely won a battle that seemed like a war, doubling off of McGirr for a lead-off hit. The hit didn't pan out as NU wasn't able to push Justin home, but this was an omen of sorts and it wasn't in favor of the Spiders.

After the second inning that must have had it's effect on the Richmond starter, NU putting up 2, to tie the game in the 3rd. Just one inning later, NU added three more to push a tie into a 3-run Nebraska lead. Richmond answered with a run and then, the Nebraska bats fell silent for the next three innings, Richmond finally taking advantage of the batting lull, putting 3 on the board to not the game at 5s. One tie, leading to another tie, pins and needles couldn't describe the anxious anticipation of Husker faithful wishing that one thing, ANY thing could happen to quell their fears, calm their nervousness, letting them breathe for possibly the first time in the game.

Then came the 8th

Richmond, not wanting to waste an opportunity, put their closer, Andy Givens in to try and give their bats a chance. A chance at getting the NU offense off the field, theirs back on and their team back on top. It was a chance Givens never got. A lead-off walk to Simokaitis followed by a single to left by Jeff Leise was only the beginning to what would be the key inning of the game. For Givens, the nightmare had just begun. With runners on first and third, Daniel Bruce was able to leg out a bunt to first to load the bases.

Jed Morris came up to bat and as you can imagine, the crowd was abuzz with the possibilities. Morris' power and a bases loaded situation, this was the perfect situation. It wasn't complimented by a slam over the fences however as Morris got tricked by a curve, which he popped up in the in-field, so it was one out with Blevins coming up. In a situation where bases are loaded and there is but one out, there's a lot of things you don't do, walking a run in when the game is tied is one of them. That's just what Givens did as Blevins was given the four-ball salute to first and Simokaitis came in.

It wasn't going at all that way it was supposed to for Givens or for Richmond. Givens was the man though. Make no question that Givens helped to get the Spiders right where they are now. With seven saves on the year and a 3:1 ratio strikes to walks, this was a serious threat on the mound. But, today just wasn't his day.

With the bases still loaded, one lone out on the board, Justin Seely came to the plate. I doubt anyone could hear the whistling of the Clint Eastwood theme from "The Good, the bad and the ugly", but the drama was there, just waiting for a moment like this. This wasn't anything like the first at-bat Seely had though as it was only a 1-0 count and Seely lofted the ball out of the park and himself, into Husker history.

I listened to this game over the radio, so I heard the hit, I heard the crowd, but I also heard the commentators talking as if it wasn't leaving the park. But, just as soon as one emotional trend built, the brisk wind that had been blowing out to left all day made it's own play in the game taking the ball out of the park for a Grand Slam home run. The commentators might have questioned (even if just for a second) whether it was going out, but Seely knew from the moment it left the bat. "I play the left field quite a bit and the wind blows right to left there quite a bit", Seely stated. "It was just a pitch up, I got the barrel of the bat on it and with my adrenaline, I knew it was out".

The crowd erupted, the commentators roared and a deadlocked game fell into the distance. For Seely, he might have remembered the moment it happened and a little in-between, but as quickly as that ball faded, so did his memory of the run around the pads. "It's a blur", Justin said. "I couldn't feel anything, but I remember seeing coach Van Horn's face and he was pretty pumped up. I remember the crowd, but I couldn't really hear it. It was awesome."

Adding to the walk-in run, Seely's 4 Ribbie blast put NU squarely in command, the game wasn't over, but life for the Spiders just got a lot more difficult.

Shane Komine who had came in, in the 7th was settling down some after giving up the 2-run homer. Just off a little more than a day's rest, who knew if he would settle down, but he did and that meant it was over. Over for the Spiders that is.

Three up and three down Richmond fell in the ninth, NU going back again. Back to the College World Series for the second time in a row. How many Northern teams have done that? To be honest, I don't have a clue. NU is one of them though and there's a celebration going on. A celebration amongst the fans and the players.

For one Justin Seely, it isn't just a celebration, but a culmination of a career. He's grateful, he's fortunate, but he's not quite ready to quit. "I had a good game and that always helps", Seely stated "but the fact that this is my senior season and I can go out of here a winner, it's great and hopefully, I can go out in the CWS the same way."


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