Familiar Names Return to Omaha For CWS
Although the lyrics to the Counting Crows' song says, "Omaha, somewhere in middle America," six of the eight teams that have reached the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. do not have to purchase maps to successfully guide their way through the city streets.
Top-ranked Texas (46-14-1), which was pushed to a third game before dispatching Texas Christian University in the Super Regional, is making its 33rd appearance in the College World Series. It's the Longhorns' fifth trip to Omaha in nine years, but this is the first time since 2005 head coach Augie Garrido has led his squad to the Elite Eight.
On the other side of the bracket is Cal State Fullerton, which is the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Titans (47-14) are making their fourth trip to Omaha in the last six years.
Fullerton also enters the tournament, which starts Saturday, as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Titans have won nine straight and swept Louisville in the Super Regional. During the postseason, the Titans have outscored their opponents a combined 68-11 in five games.
This is the Titans first trip to Omaha since 2007. They have not won a game at Rosenblatt Stadium since 2006.
Their path to the championship will more than likely go through Louisiana State, the No. 3 seed. The Tigers (51-16) have won 10 straight, including a sweep of sixth-ranked Rice in the Super Regional.
The Tigers are making back-to-back appearances at the College World Series since 2004. They went 1-2 last year, and LSU's two losses were to North Carolina, which is making its fourth straight trip to Omaha.
The Tar Heels, who used two big sixth innings to dispatch East Carolina 10-1 and 9-3 in last weekend's Super Regional, have had the most wins of any program over the past four years.
However, the Heels (47-16) have fallen short of capturing that allusive national championship. Falling to Oregon State in '06 and '07 in the finals and being eliminated by last year's national champion Fresno State.
The Tar Heels, the first school from the Atlantic Coast Conference to reach the College World Series for four straight years, is the No. 4 seed and tangles with No. 5 Arizona State on Sunday in the marquee matchup of the opening round of the World Series.
The Sun Devils (49-12) are making their 21st overall appearance to the College World Series and their third in the last five years.
The first-round series also features two of the best players in college baseball. North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley and Arizona State's pitcher Mike Leake are both All-Americans and also are finalists for the Golden Spikes Award.
Ackley was selected second overall in the major league baseball draft by Seattle, and Leake was selected eighth overall by the Cincinnati Reds. Leake, who is 16-1 this year, is expected to start against the Heels on Sunday.
One of three teams not seeded but has crashed the College World Series party is No. 16 Arkansas. The Razorbacks (39-22) upset fifth-ranked Florida State when Andrew Darr hit a two-run double in the bottom of the ninth for a 9-8 victory last Saturday in the Super Regional.
The Hogs are making their first appearance in the College World Series since 2004, but they are familiar with the streets of Omaha. Arkansas, which opens against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday at 1 p.m., is making its sixth appearance at the College World Series.
The other two teams, Virginia and Southern Mississippi, are making their inaugural appearance at the College World Series.
However, Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor is a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is a suburb of Omaha. He knows his way around the city and is bringing a confident group of Cavaliers to the tournament.
Having won the ACC tournament, the Cavs (48-13-1) were a loss away from elimination following a 4-3 loss to Mississippi in 12 innings, but Virginia rallied for a 4-3 and a 5-1 win to win the Super Regional.
The Cavs face LSU Saturday at 7 p.m.
Rounding out the field and arguably the biggest long-shot of the tournament is Southern Mississippi (39-24). The Eagles were the No. 3 seed out of four teams at the Atlanta regional. They managed to sweep Florida 9-7 and 7-6 in the Super Regional in Gainesville.
Not only did the Eagles not expect to be in Omaha, Head Coach Corky Palmer was planning on retiring after this season. He will be putting those plans on hold for a few days, as the Eagles open the tournament against No. 1 Texas on Sunday at 6 p.m.
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