If you believe in Omens, Wichita State became a team of destiny in the College World Series when Mike Wentworth popped a pink piece of Bazooka bubble gum into his mouth last Friday, read the comic that came with it, and then let his eyes drop to the fortune: "Something magical will happen today."
Hours later, Wentworth, a light-hitting catcher forced into the Shockers' lineup by injuries, launched a three-run homer just inside the rightfield foul pole at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium. That blow, off stunned Florida State ace Clyde Keller, tied the score and helped catapult Wichita State to a 12-9 elimination-game win over the top-seeded Seminoles.
The next day, in the championship game against Texas—another Cinderella team—Wentworth was only semimagical, hitting two singles and scoring a run. His unexpected success, however, seemed to inspire his teammates, especially shortstop Pat Meares, whose two-run homer sealed a 5-3 victory. Said Meares, "It's unbelievable how people kept picking us up—a different guy every day."
Last Saturday's big emotional pickup came from first baseman Bryant Winslow, who had played for weeks with a painful stress fracture in his right shin. In the fifth inning he collided with Longhorn base runner Lance Jones and fell to the ground writhing in pain. But Shocker coach Gene Stephenson couldn't persuade the stubborn sophomore to quit. "I knew he couldn't play, but he wouldn't come out," Stephenson said afterward.
"Tears were streaming down his face. I finally gave in. I told him to stand on the bag and not try anything, and I'd decide what to do at the end of the inning."
On the next pitch, Winslow staggered when he tried to plant his injured leg, and he realized he couldn't go on. He was helped off the field to a standing ovation, and as he left he told his teammates, "Don't you dare lose this game."
At the time, the Shockers were clinging to a one-run lead. Then up came Meares in the bottom of the inning to hit that homer, and soon it was all up to the ace of the staff, Greg Brummett. "I wanted to finish this game worse than anything in my whole life," said Brummett, borrowing a page from Winslow. "Nobody was gonna get in my way."
After Brummett got the final out, Winslow hobbled onto the field with his right leg in an inflatable cast and waved a crutch in jubilation. And Pat Cedeno, a senior pitcher, had an I-told-you-so grin on his face.
"Me and Wentworth have been looking at these fortunes all week," Cedeno said, reaching into his pocket. "You saw the weather today? Real cloudy?" He held out the fortune, which read: "A cloud with a silver lining hangs over your house."
"Hey," he said, beaming. "We chewed a lot of gum to get to this fortune."
Inspired by Wentworth's Bazooka blast, Meares burst Texas's bubble with a homer in the final.