Back in his days at Kings Park High School, Bobby Haney made his mark delivering loud, towering hits. In the end, though, it was an errant bouncer that skittered off the glove of a first baseman that made the biggest boom.
Haney, a senior at the University of South Carolina, was the guy who hit the botched ball that will live in UCLA infamy - the same ball that breathed life into the Gamecocks, as they went on to clinch the College World Series in two games on Tuesday in Omaha, Neb.
The grounder in the eighth inning ricocheted off Dean Espy's glove and skittered past second baseman Cody Regis to drive in Robert Beary from second and tie the score at 1. The Gamecocks won, 2-1, in 11 and, in doing so, earned the school its first national baseball title.
"It's mind-boggling," Haney's father, Jeff, said Wednesday, moments after returning home from his flight out of Omaha. "As a dad, you want to see him get a nice line drive into the gap . . . but we were thrilled. It kept us in the game and we knew something would happen after that."
It did, and after Haney had dragged himself out of the celebratory pile, he walked over to the front row of the stands and presented his father with his gold NCAA championship watch. "He was wringing wet," Jeff said. "And he goes, 'This is for you, for everything you did.' I get choked up [thinking about it]."
A championship title was a long time coming. In 2006, Haney helped lead Kings Park to an undefeated regular season but lost in the playoffs. He's "a great kid" and was one of the Kingsmen's big boppers, school athletic director Ken Ferrazzi said. "The better the competition, the better he hit," Ferrazzi said.
And watching him on ESPN, well, that was a trip. "It's fun," Ferrazzi said.
Wednesday afternoon, Haney was on a flight to South Carolina, where he and the nearly 200-strong contingent that followed the Gamecocks to Nebraska celebrated the improbable run. After losing the CWS opener, the team won six in a row to clinch the title.
The shortstop had something else to celebrate, too. With the end of the World Series, Haney is now free to sign with the San Francisco Giants, who drafted him in the 21st round this year. He's one of five Gamecocks to get drafted.
"The longer it went, the longer they put off their minor-league careers," Jeff Haney said of the overwhelming tension. "This is so exciting."