Even though last Wednesday was the winner-take-all game for the college baseball national championship, Hendersonville native and Pope John Paul II graduate Mason Hickman treated the day and game as if it were any other Wednesday.
Facing Michigan in Omaha, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin turned to Mason Hickman and trusted him with the team’s biggest game of the season.
Hickman (8-0) delivered in the Commodores 8-2 win over the Wolverines at TD Ameritrade Park to seal the program’s second national championship.
Hickman pitched six innings, allowing four hits, three walks, one run and struck out 10 batters. His performance put him into the history books as he became the ninth pitcher in CWS championship game history to record 10 strikeouts.
“After my first start against Louisville in Omaha my mindset went straight into preparation mode ready for Wednesday,” Hickman said. “I had to be mentally prepared for the winner-take-all game. We knew Michigan was a very good team and it would be hard to win. It was an exciting feeling to get the ball in that game. It is a moment I will never forget.”
The moment is something he will never forget, but that aura quickly disappeared as Michigan connected on three straight singles that gave the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
“Having my shortstop Ethan Paul and catcher Philip Clark basically tell me everything was going to be okay was reassuring,” he said. “Paul told me this is a pitcher’s park, work the ball down and get three quick outs and that is what we did."
From there, Hickman was special, striking out the next three batters and settled in nicely to the game. He continued to roll over the next several innings.
“I was just happy to put our team in a position to win,” Hickman said. “Our seniors have given everything to our program so to be in that position to help our team was just awesome.”
“The thing with Hickman is he has great vertical rise,” Michigan head coach Erik Bakich told ESPN reporter Kris Budden about Hickman. “He has good depth to his curveball and that really compliments his high spin fastball.”
Hickman exited the game with a 6-1 lead and just one hit after his first three batters faced. Following the final out -- a pop up to center field -- Hickman and his teammates celebrated on the mound.
The win closed out a remarkable season for the Commodores. After coming into the season ranked No. 1, Vanderbilt ran the table in the SEC, winning the regular season, conference tournament championship, super regional and national championship.
“I just went and hugged my teammates because that is the last time I will be on the same field as some of those guys,” Hickman added. “This season was an incredible ride and I enjoyed every moment of it all. Our senior leadership was so special this year. They made sure we treated every game with importance. They did a great job of keeping us where we need to be and are a big reason to why we were so successful this year.”
Since Hickman pitched so far into the season and summer he says he will not play summer ball but instead hang around campus to recover.
The rising junior hurler earned plenty of publicity following his performance in Omaha and with one more year left until he is draft eligible, Hickman says he isn’t worried about the next chapter but instead focusing on his day in and day out approach to helping the Commodores repeat their success next season.
“You just can’t worry about those sort of things,” he said. “I never want to be focused on my personal success. As long as you focus on team success everything else will take care of itself. I am looking forward to spending another year with this baseball program.”
Hickman adds he will size his right ring finger for his newest piece of jewelry.