How many of us can type our name into the YouTube search bar and relive one of life’s great moments? Jim Audley can. “My kids think that’s pretty great,” Audley said. “They want to show it to everybody.” Audley’s great moment — or what Wichita State fans likely assume is Audley’s great moment — is a play from the 1991 College World Series. In Shocker lore, there’s “The Shot” — Mike Jones’ jumper to beat Kansas in 1981. There’s “The Catch,” — Don Dreher’s touchdown to beat KU in 1982.
And there’s “The Throw,” Audley’s one-hop strike from center field that gunned down Creighton’s Steve Bruns at the plate in the 12th inning and preserved WSU’s 3-2 victory.
The Eagle begins an occasional “Catching Up” Sunday feature with a look at the 20th anniversary of Audley’s big play in maybe the Shockers’ greatest baseball win.
The backstory: At Shawnee Mission North, Audley was noticed by WSU almost accidentally when he shut out rival SM Northwest, scoring the game’s only run on his homer. Pitching coach Brent Kemnitz was there to watch the other team’s pitcher.
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At WSU: He signed with the Shockers and earned a starting job as a freshman, though a slump after about 30 games got him on the bench.
“Gene (Stephenson) wanted me to try some things, so he sat me down for about 15 games,” Audley said. “He was saying, ‘You tried it your way, now try it my way.’æ”
Audley, hitting low in the order, got back in as a starter and never left. He was a leadoff hitter as a sophomore and junior, then hit third as a senior. He had 300 career hits and played in more CWS games (14) than any Shocker.
Brush with greatness: The June 3, 1991 CWS game between Missouri Valley Conference rivals was special because, while the CWS routinely sells out games, this was hometown Creighton’s first Series trip and was fresh off an upset of second-seed Clemson. The home team was truly the home team, and its rival was the opponent.
“What I remember is how focused you had to be because it was so loud and so intense and so edgy,” Audley said. “You had to be intense the entire game because one play could make the difference.”
Of course, it did. Trailing by a run with one out in the 12th inning, Creighton’s Dax Jones hit a sharp single to center. Bruns rounded third as Audley closed fast on the one-hop liner.
In one perfect motion, he fielded and threw to the plate, soaring over his cutoff man and bouncing it just in front of Doug Mirabelli, who got the tag down as Bruns tried to fit between the catcher’s legs to home plate.
“It was one of those perfect deals that he hit the ball almost too hard,” Audley said. “All the details and all the little things worked out just right.”
One out later, WSU won. Carried off the field, Audley went back to the team hotel and collapsed in his room, too drained to celebrate.
What you didn’t know: Audley tripled in the fourth inning for an RBI, scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly, and reached on an infield single and scored the go-ahead run in the 12th.
Looking back: “When I think about my playing days, I think more about the whole college experience,” Audley said. “It’s the process of meeting people and learning about them and being humbled. A lot of guys come into Wichita State and they’re blue-chip prospects, and this is a chance for them to be a part of a great team.”
Since then: A day later, Audley was drafted in the 13th round by the Baltimore Orioles. He played two minorleague seasons, then began working in Oklahoma City and later the Dallas area. Audley, 42, is general manager of a CiCi’s pizza restaurant in Waxahachie, Texas. He is married and has sons Avery (18) and Blaise (15) and daughter Makinzie (8).