Now about one week into the final College World Series to be played at historic Rosenblatt Stadium, everything is starting to heat up. Emotions are on the line, as well are hopes of an entire state.
So far Oklahoma, Arizona State, Florida, and Florida State have faced the music in Omaha. UCLA, TCU, and Clemson have advanced to the semifinals, with Oklahoma and South Carolina facing off tonight.
With the end of the CWS in sight, here are six burning questions that only time will answer.
Arizona State came into the 2010 College World Series as the No. 1 overall seed and the favorites to win it all. Instead, the Sun Devils became the first top seed to go winless, losing to Clemson and South Carolina.
Maybe it was that ASU played too much like a machine. They all seemed to do everything the same on the field. Maybe a team needs a guy who can't hit, but flashes the leather incredibly.
Game Two just went awry for the Devils. The underdog Gamecocks went to work on the pitching staff, highlighted by a Jackie Bradley Jr. bomb to left-center that put the game on ice. They couldn't come through in the clutch, especially with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth.
Just like that, the Sun Devils are gone. Again.
The Tigers came into the CWS the exact opposite of Arizona State. Complete underdogs, they were given very little chance, but they had things in place to make a run. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/408223-2010-college-world-series-10-reasons-why-clemson-can-take-the-title is an article I wrote on why they can win the title.
Now Clemson is in the driver's seat. With 6-3 and 6-4 wins over Arizona State and Oklahoma, respectively, the Tigers await a taker to play them in the semifinals.
Kyle Parker has led the hitting attack while the pitching has held their own, which may have been the weakness entering the tournament. But they now face the top teams in the CWS.
Can they hold up?
In only two games, UCLA has been the best team in Omaha. They dominated Florida and played an all-around solid game versus TCU to advance to the semis, where they face their most recent opponent in the Horned Frogs.
Led by Beau Amaral's hitting, the Bruins have appeared in cruise control in all facets, surrenduring only three runs in both games with great starts from Trevor Bauer and Cole Gerrit.
The Bruins are looking real good, but can they keep it up in their second game vs. TCU?
South Carolina's Jackie Bradley Jr. has been on fire during the entire NCAA tournament leading up to Omaha, where he has picked up the pace even more. In two games, a loss and a win, the Gamecocks center fielder has two homers and has extended his hitting streak to 18 games. He can single handedly win ballgames.
Can Bradley do it all and have South Carolina advance? He is stroking it incredibly well and it seems like nobody can stop him.
The Clemson pitching staff had the highest ERA of any team in the College World Series. Entering the tournament, everyone acknowledged it may be their soft spot that can hurt them.
But in two games, they have only allowed seven runs to very potent Arizona State and Oklahoma offenses that feature the likes of Cameron Seitzer, Garrett Buechele, Zack MacPhee, and Riccio Torrez.
They only had two consistent starters all season, neither of the two a blow-away ace. The bullpen is deep and slightly above average.
If the staff on the bump gets the job done, then Clemson may end up winning the title.
Sadly, this is the final season of good ol' Rosenblatt Stadium. The CWS will still be held in friendly Omaha, NE, but the Blatt will no longer be the home with a new stadium being built.
Hopefully the remaining teams can make it extra special. This means no boring sweep consisting of blowouts in the championship series, but rather an exciting series that goes down to the final out of Game Three.
Rosenblatt Stadium is one of baseball's old gems, with the CWS in its 60th year there. The teams and fans need to give it a big going away party. It deserves it.