Head coach Ryan Odom threw out the first pitch as the men's basketball team was honored at Camden Yards. Photo by Ian Feldmann.
The brick facade of Oriole Park at Camden Yards faces outward toward Russel Street. In the distance, a black bus pulls into a parking lot. With a large picture of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever on the side, and “Retrievers” laid out in bold lettering, fans look upon the bus in awe, and the crowd begins to mutter. Yes, it was indeed “that school,” the one that shocked the nation in a stunning upset over No. 1 Virginia in the NCAA tournament.
There has been plenty of fanfare since that marvelous day. March 16 seems like a distant memory now, but we are not far removed from it. In just two months, UMBC has gone from underdog, to Cinderella, to national treasure. After hosting their first home playoff game in a decade, and reaching their first championship game since 2008-2009, UMBC men’s basketball shocked Vermont, winning the championship on the three-point buzzer beater that will forever be known as “The Shot.” Then, the Retrievers went to Charlotte, and shocked the world as they became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in NCAA men’s basketball history.
At this time last year, many Orioles fans might not have even heard of UMBC. But, on this night the crowd of 20,004 were well aware of what those four letters stood for. The crowd came to their feet, and applauded as the UMBC fight song rang from the speakers, and filled the ballpark. A quick look over the crowd would show the various seas of UMBC-branded yellow Orioles caps, which UMBC fans adorned thanks to the “UMBC Pride Night” promotion, which included these special hats with the tickets.
As the team was introduced, a sense of pride radiated throughout the ballpark. The win against Virginia seemed like a dream for so long, and in this moment it seemed as if it had finally been cemented.
At the end of the ceremony, head coach Ryan Odom threw out the first pitch. As he gripped the ball in his right hand, he picked up his front leg and delivered an easy, slightly arching fastball across home plate for a strike. He then shook the catcher’s hand and walked off the field behind the rest of the team. As the team traveled down the umpire’s tunnel behind home plate, fans were eager to high-five the players and celebrate their accomplishments.
The game commenced, and Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy did not have the same control as Odom. Buddy had a rough first inning as a walk and a hit by pitch would lead to the Cleveland Indians scoring an early run to give themselves a one-run advantage. The Indians had the bases loaded with two outs after scoring the run, but Bundy would pitch his way out of trouble as Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso would fly out and Bundy would strike out catcher Roberto Perez.
Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer would carry a no-hitter into the fourth inning before Orioles shortstop Manny Machado blasted a homerun out to center field to tie the game at 1-1. The Orioles would get two more runners on base in the inning before Bauer would work his way out of the inning without further damage.
In the fifth inning, the Orioles would strike again. The first two batters of the inning would get on base before Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini would hit a double over the head of the center fielder, scoring two runners to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
Unlike the Indians in the 2016 World Series, the Orioles would not blow this 3-1 lead. Rather, the Orioles bullpen would slam the door shut in three innings of work. The bullpen would allow only two base runners over those three innings as they shut out the Indians’ offence. Relief pitcher Darren O’Day pitched the ninth inning, striking out the final batter to end the game and earning the save as the Orioles earned their sixth win on the season.
In other basketball news, UMBC basketball announced Friday that they will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to take on Marquette in the brand new Milwaukee Bucks arena. Follow @retrieverumbc for more updates on next seasons basketball schedule as details are released.