Tiny Wofford College Becomes Cinderella Southern Conference Champion

Tiny Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, continued its unlikely Cinderella run in the NCAA Division I baseball championships. On Saturday evening, Wofford pitcher Austin Redwine held The Citadel to one run and four hits over nearly seven innings, while Brandon Waring slammed a go-ahead two-run homer to lead Wofford College to a 4-2 win over The Citadel in the championship game of the Southern Conference tournament at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in Charleston, South Carolina. The tournament victory marked the first Southern Conference baseball championship in Wofford’s Division I history. Beginning tournament play as the lowly No. 9 seed, Wofford became the lowest seeded team in history ever to win the Southern Conference tournament championship.

But there is much, much more to this magical story. Over the last 50 years, only a handful of college baseball teams have been able to put together an offensive lineup capable of launching 100 or more home runs in a single season. Perennial university baseball Goliaths such as The University of Alabama, Louisiana State University, Florida State University and The University of South Carolina adorn the list of 100 home run clubs, but recently on May 23, another college team powered its way into that select national NCAA Division I baseball group. And that team is not ranked among Baseball America’s Top 25, nor is it a perennial College World Series contender.

The newest member of the 100 home run circle is Wofford College, a member of the Southern Conference and the smallest NCAA Division I school in the country. Wofford’s baseball team team draws from about 625 male students in a coed student body that totals just 1,250 students. Wofford had smashed 103 home runs this season by May 23rd, giving it the second highest home run total in the entire nation. They were only the second team in the country to reach triple digits this season and trailed only ninth-ranked South Carolina by one homer for the national lead. However, by slamming two more home runs during their winning Southern Conference Championship game tonight, Wofford passed The University of South Carolina to take the lead in the nation’s college home run derby, with a total that now stands at 106 for the regular playing season.

Wofford College, located in Spartanburg, S.C., is traditionally renowned for its superb academics and a historic campus that is so beautiful it has gained official status as a national arboretum. Wofford’s football program has enjoyed consistent success, even claiming a Southern Conference championship in 2003, but its other athletic programs have been a mere blip on the national radar. That is until the 2007 baseball team began drawing national attention after climbing the nation’s home run list and making its unlikely winning run for the Southern Conference tournament title.

The Wofford Terriers began the 2007 season by mustering only seven runs over a three-game series against Longwood University, while losing two of three to the visiting Lancers. But after sweeping a series against The University of Dayton and scoring a combined 21 runs over the three-game spread, Wofford’s powerful bats came to life and the Terriers homered in their next 22 straight games. Fifty-three homers later, the Terriers stood atop all NCAA Division I teams in the country as the national home run leader. Since then, Wofford had battled for the home run lead with The University of South Carolina and Florida Atlantic University, two universities that each boast student bodies of over 25,500.

Wofford’s new-found power took them further into the Southern Conference baseball championship tournament than the team has ever gone before. After drawing a No. 9 seed to begin the tourney, Wofford blasted its way into the finals by slamming seven home runs during its first three tournament games. The road to the finals included a 5-3 first-round victory over No. 8 seed Furman University, a 19-6 romp over No. 1 seed The College of Charleston, a 12-5 trouncing of No. 5 seed University of North Carolina (Greensboro) and a 6-2 semi-final triumph over The Citadel. Wofford’s unlikely championship charge culminated in tonight’s decisive 4-2 finals rematch triumph over The Citadel.

Having won the Southern Conference tournament title, Wofford has earned an official bid to the NCAA Division I Regional Championships and will learn exactly where it will be playing when bracket selections are announced during the selection showcase to be held on Monday, May 28 at 12:30 p.m. However, early news reports from reliable college sports sources are indicating that Wofford is likely to open regional championship play in the bracket taking place at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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Photo of the Day: This Magic Moment

Photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

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