With one dramatic pitch, the Retrievers of UMBC sealed their spot in the big dance.
A 10th inning bases loaded “walk-off” walk to Zack Bright in the America East title game clinched a 2-1 win for UMBC and its first conference championship in 16 years.
“I was so nervous my body was shaking,” said Bright. “But, I’ve been clutch all year so I knew that in my heart it was there right person to be up.”
“I was shocked,” said UMBC outfielder Andrew Casali. “He threw a ball and we’re going to a regional. You can’t describe how that moment felt. It was incredible.”
Now the Retrievers are headed to the NCAA Tournament for only the third time in 31 years of Division I competition, and first time since 2001.
“I mean, it’s crazy. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs and to get to this point, it was our goal in the beginning of the season,” said Bright. “We accomplished it. Now, I guess we need to go shock the world a little bit.”
And they’ll need to do that to keep their season going. UMBC is heading to the Winston-Salem regional and opens tournament play Friday night at 7:00 p.m. against top seed, host Wake Forest.
“The pressure is really on Wake Forest. If we go out there and play really well and keep it close, now the pressure is on them,” said UMBC Head Coach Bob Mumma. “They’re expected to beat us. We have confidence in ourselves that we’re going to go out there and win the ballgame.”
The other two schools in the Retrievers’ pod are West Virginia and the Terrapins of Maryland. The Terps and Mountaineers open the double-elimination style regional Friday at 2:00 p.m.