One of the big early upset stories of the college baseball postseason is the Virginia Cavaliers, who advanced to the Super Regionals this afternoon with their second straight elimination game win over the 11th-seeded Old Dominion. And they didn’t just win, they walked it off with a dinger in the 10th inning.
But you don’t really care about Virginia, of all schools, as an underdog favorite. If you’re a neutral and you care about them for any reason, it’ll be because of their wonderfully goofy pitcher Stephen Schoch, who with a few choice quotes and on-field gestures has quickly become the breakout folk hero star of this tournament’s early days.
Schoch is 24 years old and, according to his Baseball Reference page, took a winding path through a couple of different schools before he finally got to Virginia, and he sure seems like he’s enjoying every inch of this ride. In Virginia’s five games (a loss and then a four-game win streak), Schoch has closed out two of the wins, getting a 2.1-inning, five-strikeout save in a 3-2 game against South Carolina on Sunday and then earning the win with 3.1 innings to finish ODU on Tuesday.
It was Schoch’s whole … thing … over the weekend that made him an instant star. First, there was his emotional, badass, glove-throwing reaction to striking out the final hitter in the victory over SC.
And then there was his spacey, chilled-out interview immediately afterwards. First, he intelligently weighed the value of free Dippin’ Dots against the benefits of sticking around a little longer in the tourney.
“I heard a fan offer free Dippin’ Dots if I blew it, which, the price of Dippin’ Dots with inflation is unreal. So for a brief moment I was like, ‘Damn, Dippin’ Dots sound good.’ But I also thought in the back of my head, we win … we’re gonna be here another day, that’s more per diem, so that means I can buy my own Dippin’ Dots and be a winner.”
He added, of his mindset heading into an appearance, “I think three words every time I’m out there. The first one’s a swear word, starts with an F. The second word’s Attack. The third one’s Win.”
There was even more—specifically his response to being asked if anything makes him nervous.
“Caves,” he replied, totally deadpan. “Nothing really. I don’t see any caves out here. We’re in the South. It’s not the desert, that’s where most caves are probably at.
“This is just a game. There’s gonna be way harder things in life than striking out the side or not walking somebody. I don’t really get too caught up in all the jibber jabber and all the mean things people might say to me, because, you know, I think I’m a cool guy, my dogs think I’m awesome, my teammates like me, and my friends like me.”
After blowing up online and then weathering a rain delay that pushed back Virginia’s final confrontation with ODU, Schoch did not disappoint on the mound, both in terms of results and in quirkiness. Hat tip to Rob Friedman for catching Schoch bopping himself on the head while walking off.
And also for capturing this wacky limb action that caught a runner trying to break for third.
I won’t claim to be much of a College World Series maniac, but I like this guy! I’m psyched that I’ll get to watch him for at least a little longer.