OMAHA, Neb. — Let’s sort out some of the main faces in Texas Tech’s 5-4 win over Arkansas Monday at the College World Series. Here’s a guess. One, you never saw coming.
The timely hit of the day? That was Cody Masters, and his tie-breaking triple in the eighth inning.
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The homer of the day? That was Cameron Warren missile shot to left.
The pitcher of the day? Caleb Kilian, and his seven stout innings.
The play of the day? Well . . . that belonged to the guy sitting in the bleachers wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey, attending the first College World Series game in his life. If you think Omaha can produce unlikely stars, get a load of this one.
Did you see Austin Buisse’s barehanded catch of Warren’s homer? If you were watching the game on television, you certainly did, for it earned a mini-series of replays. Fourth inning, Warren at the plate, and there the ball went, headed for the left field bleachers at TD Ameritrade Park.
It landed 421 feet away, in Buisse’s left hand. Meanwhile, he didn’t spill a drop of beer from the cup in his right. ESPN loved it. Couldn’t show it enough.
“My phone’s kind of blowing up,” Buisse said 30 minutes later, only faintly aware he had become one of the faces of game 5 of the College World Series. He knew something was up when his grandfather and mother called.
Yeah, there were many handprints on this Texas Tech victory. Easton Murrell, for instance, who doesn’t often start and didn’t even know he was leading off until he got to the ballpark. “I had no clue. I mean, I haven’t hit leadoff in my life,” he said later. Know what else the sophomore had never done? Homered in a college game. That included his freshman season at — oh, my — Arkansas, before he transferred.
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So, of course, he hit his first home run in the fifth inning to tie the game against his old team, then more or less floated around the bases. “It was a pretty good feeling, especially against that team.”
Or Warren. Not only did he have that long bash in the fourth, but he scored the eventual winning run from first base in the eighth on Masters’ triple. We’re talking hard labor. Warren is 6-3, 240 and, to use his own words – “I’m not very quick.” This will tell you something: He has three stolen bases in three seasons. So to race from first to home for him is like running from Omaha to Lincoln.
Good thing he was actually stealing on the pitch, since the Razorbacks weren’t holding him. He said trotting around the bases after his homer was more fun.
“I’m still kind of tired,” he said afterward. “That’s the first time I’ve stolen in I don’t know how long. It got so loud and I heard it off the bat, and I was like, I think it’s gone, but I’d better run.”
Next thing he knew, the third base coach was waving him home. “I was like, c’mon big boy, you’ve got to score," Warren said.
“We were all running with him," teammate Josh Jung mentioned.
So there were lots of important Red Raiders Monday. But for someone’s true 15 minutes of fame, meet Austin Buisse, 23, who over the weekend was helping work the family farm back in Minneota, Minnesota, and playing third base for his amateur baseball team. This, while he works on his master’s online in educational policy administration. He and friends hopped in a car and decided to head for Omaha. How could he know instant celebrity awaited?
“This my first time, ever, ever here,” he said. “I’d never even seen TD Ameritrade Park before.”
To break down his big moment: First, the catch.
“To be honest, I was talking with my friend and a bunch of guys kind of sounded like a ball was coming. I looked up and it was sort of coming to me. I stepped in front and . . . I really don’t know how I caught it. I don’t know how that happened. I really don’t. It shocked me. I just felt the ball in my hand. It doesn’t even hurt, that’s the best part.”
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So he had a home run ball hit by . . . well, by whom? “I know Texas Tech hit it. Their first baseman, right? The big guy?”
Next, the immediate gulp of beer with the right hand.
“My first reaction. I don’t know why.”
Then, the aftermath. Fellow bleacher occupants constantly came by to shake his hand. It was the first ball in a baseball game that ever happened his way. “And I go to a bunch of Twins games. I’ve sat in foul ball territory and I’ve never had anything close.”
Finally, his plans for the baseball.
“I’ve got two baseballs I hang up in my room. One’s my first MLB baseball from batting practice; that was a long time ago back in the Metrodome. And the one I hit for my first amateur home run, which was June 1st. This one is going right by them.”
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Warren was later appraised of this event. “He caught it?” he asked in wonder. Yep, and forget about getting the ball back.
“It’s a souvenir,” Warren said. “He can keep it.”
Maybe it took a fellow baseball player to make that play, dropping neither ball, nor the beverage.
“We just had a game yesterday,” Buisse said. “And I missed a ground ball.”