Freshman Kaiser Weiss escaped the celebration (mostly) unscathed after his game-winning heroics over the weekend.
Baseball players big and small, young and old, sometimes wait their whole careers for heroic opportunities like these, dreaming of late-inning chances to win a pivotal game for their team.
For Washington freshman Kaiser Weiss, the wait was easy. The weight of the moment, he quickly realized Sunday night, nearly took a dark turn after he came through in the biggest game in Husky baseball history.
After Weiss drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly at Cal State Fullerton, sending the Huskies to the College World Series for the first time, Weiss was tackled by a gang of teammates on the infield dirt, the start of a raucous celebration.
Sure, it looked like a ton of fun, and for several Huskies, including Weiss, at the bottom of the dogpile — er, Dawgpile — it might literally have been a ton.
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At least 20 players raced from the dugout, from their bases, from the bullpen to join the dogpile. One considerate teammate, backup catcher Michael Petrie, stopped to take off his cleats just before jumping onto the top of the pile.
Willie MacIver was headed-butted in the face by teammate Nick Kahle as they dived simultaneously into the pile. MacIver is sporting a baseball-sized, raspberry-colored scrape on his right cheek this week.
“Worth it,” he said.
Those at the bottom of the dogpile aren’t always so lucky. In 2010, UCLA lost its starting second baseman and No. 3 hitter after he broke his wrist at the bottom of the pile.
Washington coach Lindsay Meggs said that UCLA incident popped into his mind in the moments after the greatest victory of his UW career.
“We weren’t worried about it,” Meggs said, “but then all of a sudden we were worried about it for a second.”
The Huskies didn’t have any significant injuries in the dogpile. Rub some dirt on it, eh?
As for Weiss, well, he came through mostly unscathed after some 30 seconds at the bottom of the pile.
“Another five, 10 seconds, I probably would have blacked out,” said Weiss, a 175-pound freshman outfielder. “It was pretty tough to breathe, and there was a moment where I just stopped breathing. That’s a lot of weight crushing you, and I’m not that big of a guy.”
He is convinced one of his teammates, sophomore pitcher Jack Johnson, did lose consciousness briefly at the bottom of the pile.
“Did we win?” Johnson was asking teammates as he emerged from the dirt.
As teammates finally dispersed, Weiss was horizontal on his back on the dirt, looking a bit like a flattened Wile E. Coyote after a boulder dropped from on a cliff on top of him. Several teammates helped Weiss to his feet.
“I think everyone dreams about being in that dogpile, and being on the bottom is unreal,” Weiss said. “It kind of hurts, but it’s definitely something to remember.”
A native of Oxnard, Calif., Weiss had his parents and many other family members in the stands at Fullerton over the weekend. And Weiss had plenty to celebrate with them after coming through with the game-winning at-bats in the victories on Friday and Sunday.
“I’ve never had a walkoff or anything like that, and now I’ve had two this year,” Weiss said. “So it’s really crazy, just to have the opportunity to be there and for Coach to have the trust in me. It was huge.”
Now it gets even bigger. The Huskies on Wednesday depart for Omaha and the College World Series, and if all goes well they will have a chance to dogpile once again. (Just, you know, be careful, boys.)
“Ever since we all got here, that was our dream — to have a dogpile on the field on our way to Omaha,” MacIver said. “All we talk about all fall, through the winter, that’s our goal, that’s what we work so hard for, that’s (why) we get up at 6 a.m. to come here and lift — to have that dogpile right there.”