Image credit: (Photo courtesy of Pepperdine)
On this episode of the Baseball America College Podcast, Teddy Cahill and Joe Healy are joined by Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez to discuss the 1992 College World Series championship game between Cal State Fullerton and Pepperdine, in which Rodriguez records the final out for the Waves.
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Rodriguez enjoyed an outstanding playing career at Pepperdine, earning first team All-West Coast Conference honors in 1991 and 1992 and first team All-America honors in 1991 for a season in which he hit .419 with seven home runs, 49 RBI and 32 stolen bases. He was also a member of Team USA in 1991 and 1992, playing in the 1991 Pan American Games along the way.
After being drafted in the fifth round by the Red Sox in the 1992, Rodriguez played seven seasons in professional baseball, including two separate stints in the big leagues in 1995 with the Red Sox and Tigers.
After his playing career ended, Rodriguez embarked on a coaching career that took him back to his alma mater beginning in 2004. In 12 seasons coaching the Waves, he led the program to eight regional appearances, and in 2014, his team was just one win away from a trip to Omaha for the first time since the 1992 national title. For the last five seasons, including the shortened 2020 campaign, Rodriguez has been the head coach at Baylor, taking the Bears to three postseasons in four full seasons on the job.
The 1992 Pepperdine team is one that really lives on in college baseball lore. Although Pepperdine has traditionally been a winning program, and at that time, it was an near-annual regional participant, this was a true Cinderella national title, not altogether unlike the one celebrated by Coastal Carolina in 2016. It wasn’t a shock given the consistent success of the program, but any time a national title comes from somewhere outside the traditional power structure, it’s an underdog story.
Among the topics discussed with Rodriguez on this episode are:
- How confident Pepperdine was as a team coming into the championship game
- The perception of Cal State Fullerton as a power in Southern California
- The importance of the quick 2-0 the Waves built in the first inning
- The play made by catcher Scott Vollmer in the fourth inning that potentially saved a run
- Eric Ekdahl’s surprising home run in the fifth
- The various superstitions that he had going on at the time
- The way Pepperdine starter Pat Ahearne controlled the game
- His diving play in the eighth inning that kept Fullerton from tying the game
- The feeling of recording the final out of the game
- Competing against Phil Nevin
- The influence of then-Pepperdine head coach Andy Lopez
- What the Pepperdine community means to him
- His cooking skills