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Summer Fun in Omaha
By John Agovino, Associate College Sports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 65th installment of the College World Series is set to begin this weekend, and it is about time this amateur sport starts receiving national attention. Seriously, this is not a joke.
Obviously, baseball does not rank up there with football or basketball in the college world, but if you are a fan of baseball this is must-watch television.
However, do not expect all the media hype and fan fare that the other major college sports receive. The President of the United States does not take time out of his busy schedule to pick a bracket for the College World Series.
There is not an entire month dedicated to baseball like March Madness. People do not fill out 15 baseball brackets in hopes of winning some coin, and some times even more importantly, bragging rights between buddies. It is unlikely you have heard someone say, "I told you Dallas Baptist was going to make it to the Santa Clara Super Regional." That happened by the way.
College baseball does not come close to NCAA football, which is covered around the clock, whether good or bad. For example, the debacle at Ohio State has created non-stop media attention across the country. Even the good, like the NFL Draft, is meticulously broken down for months on end.
The players are widely unknown, which is certainly not the case in football or basketball. In fact, the last two players that gave this sport national attention were Stephen Strasburg and Garrett Wittels.
However, the crack of the bat and the pop of the glove will take center stage over the next two weeks as eight teams will take part in some summer fun in Omaha.
There are plenty of story lines to keep even the average sports fan intrigued, beginning with the Virginia Cavaliers, who advanced to only their second College World Series with a thrilling win on the final day of the Super Regionals.
The top-seeded Cavs were on the verge of suffering a similar fate to last season, an early and unexpected exit in the Super Regionals. Trailing UC- Irvine by a run with two outs in the ninth inning, the Cavs managed to load the bases, putting shortstop Chris Taylor at the dish, and with one swing of the bat the frustration of another shocking send-off turned into jubilation.
It was one of those rare situations that a player dreams about when they are in the schoolyard playing with friends, a walk-off hit to win the big game, and for Taylor his fantasy turned into reality and he took full advantage.
"I'm speechless right now. This is a dream come true. A player can only dream of moments like this and all year long our team has always had that 'never quit' attitude," said Taylor. "Every single guy in our lineup has just been fighting all year and it feels really good. I'm so proud of my teammates."
What about the three SEC teams that will attempt to take their respective rivalries to the next level. South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt battled through the gauntlet to get to Omaha and each team comes in with its own story line.
The Gamecocks are hoping to become the first team to repeat as champions since Oregon State climbed to the top of the college baseball mountain in 2006 and 2007. South Carolina has won all five of its postseason games this year, giving the Gamecocks 11 in a row dating back to last year.
Then there are the Gators, who will be making their seventh appearance in the College World Series, but this is the first time they have showcased their talent on back-to-back occasions. Florida, which reached the 50-win plateau for just the third time in school history, has never won the national title, but that could all change this season.
Finally there is Vanderbilt. The Commodores are in uncharted territory, as this is their first-ever trip to Omaha. Even when David Price was leading the charge for Vandy, the school was unable to reach this level of success. However, with the likes of Grayson Garvin, who was drafted by Price's team, the Tampa Bay Rays, and first baseman Aaron Westlake, the Commodores could be a team to watch.
Westlake put forth a once-in-a-lifetime performance to get Vanderbilt to Omaha, as the left-handed hitting junior belted three home runs in a victory over Oregon State. What made the accomplishment even more impressive was the fact that each round-tripper came off a southpaw.
Throw in North Carolina and Texas, two teams that have played for the NCAA title in three of the past five seasons, and the field instantly becomes stronger, more competitive and definitely more exciting.
Let's not forget California and Texas A&M. The Golden Bears, who won the first-ever College World Series back in 1947, and have not claimed the title since 1957, are making their first appearance in Omaha in nearly 20 years. As for the Aggies, their last trip through the corn fields of Nebraska was back in 1999.
When all is said and done, eight teams will leave all they have on the field in hopes of claiming college baseball's ultimate prize. There will not be a Parade of Roses, and when the final game is decided you will not hear "One Shining Moment" playing in the background, but even without all the media hype and national attention, the College World Series will surely leave you on the edge of your seat.
06/17 13:01:44 ET
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