Sunday Summations - The Self-Plagiarization Edition

Is it okay to plagiarize myself? Or more specifically, I may be plagiarizing Glenn Tanner instead.

After he saw UC Irvine play in last week's Regional at Round Rock, Tanner said this Anteater team was tough, played flawless defense and showed remarkable poise for a team not used to the post-season pressure, much less playing against Texas.

Well, after watching their win at Wichita State today, guess what my synopsis of Irvine is? They're tough, play flawless defense and show remarkable poise.

I'm not kidding. It may be trite by now, but it's true. Did you see how everything was against them in the 9th inning today? The Eck Stadium crowd was going freakin' nuts, the Shockers were angrily rallying, hell, even the umpires were against them with horrible calls. But after getting tied up in the 9th by resilient Wichita bats, the Anteaters didn't flip out.

No. Instead they took on the look of a championship team. Matt Morris, the only 'Eater with more than one hit on the day, slapped a one-out single. Then, after advancing on a wild pitch, Bryan Petersen, who had been muzzled all weekend, smacked a screamer over Right Fielder Matt Brown's outstretched glove. That easily scored Morris and set off a rabid dogpile that had to have UCI's coaching staff cringing with thoughts of injury inter-mixed.

UCIdogpile.jpg
(No, that's not a face of pain. It's Bryan Peterson as he appeared on my TV at the bottom of the dogpile for UC Irvine)


Who's to credit here? Well as I interestingly found out tonight a half a continent away in Fullerton, California, If you ask Cal State Fullerton head coach George Horton, it's his former assistant Dave Serrano. In the post-game press conference after their Omaha-clinching win over UCLA, Coach Horton was asked about his feelings for Irvine making it to the College World Series as well as his boys.

"First off, this is no disrespect to Coach Savage at UCLA, he's an outstanding coach. But everytime you read something in Baseball America or someplace about the hottest young coaches in college baseball, there's always a mention of Coach Savage, but never any mention of Coach Serrano."

Horton wasn't done talking about his former pitching coach. "Look at Coach Serrano's track record. He won a national championship as a player with us, he made it to the College World Series as an assistant at Tennessee, he won a national championship as an assistant with us and now he's playing for a national championship as the head coach of UC Irvine. Any hottest coach talk should have him mentioned in the same breath with great coaches like John Savage. That's all there is to it."

Today, coach Serrano's philosophy of "the bigger the game, the more aggressive we're going to be" played out like a beautifully tuned baby grand piano. And with that aggression comes the fruits of making it to Omaha.

"I really need to wake up from this dream." Serrano told the media after the game. "But I'm not ready to stop dreaming."

With the way these road warriors are playing, that's a nightmare scenario for anyone they match up with in Omaha. And why so many teams will be reaching for the snooze alarm now.


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Who's Omaha bound---

UCLA - 1
Cal State Fullerton - 2
Even George Horton admitted to making summer vacation plans a few weeks ago. He was scheduled to go to Kevin Costner's house in Aspen this coming week (yes, the two are good friends from back in the Garrido days). Oh well, it looks like this little thing called The College World Series is going to get in the way. As Horton alluded to tonight, something happens when young men put on a Titan uniform and play in the post-season. Tonight it was the bat of leadoff hitter Clark Hardman, who was the only consistent stick against Frosh phenom Gavin Brooks of UCLA, going 3-for-4 with a solo home run in the 6th. Jeff Kaplan went 6.2 innings without giving up an earned run. And relievers Adam Jorgenson and Bryan Harris, who Horton claims are "as good as anyone in the country" went the final 2.1 innings, giving up just two hits. Biggest key to the night?... UCLA started off four innings with leadoff doubles and only got one run out of it. Oh and there was also a great play at the plate in the top of the 9th where 3rd baseman Evan McArthur caught a tough chopper and threw out UCLA's Justin Uribe at the dish. Give catcher John Curtis high marks for blocking the plate and making the deflating tag.
- Prospects for Omaha:
You never count out a Cal State Fullerton team. You just don't. But this isn't your father's Titans I tell ya'. They hit a little on the light side and don't have a Jason Windsor-type of stud to pull them through. But they've been there plenty of times before and if ASU's bats stay astray, the Titans could capitalize.

Wichita State - 2
UC Irvine - 3
Maybe the Anteaters should be renamed the Pythons, because they slow everything down to a crawl and just squeeze the life out of people. This was a slow, painful, methodical killing off of the Shockers. At one stretch Wes Etheridge went six innings without even allowing a pop-up to the outfield. Matt Morris' diving, near-collision catch to end the 8th was incredible. But how about that over-rule of the out call at 1st? In the words of Toby from Bad News Bears, that was "pretty piss-pour."
. Prospects for Omaha:
Can a team that hit just .233 in the Supers really win a national title? Fullerton Coach George Horton reminded us in the post game tonight that his Titans hit only .240 on its way to the '04 crown. And with Gorgen and Etheridge backed by that nasty defense, it can be done. Watch out for the Zots!


North Carolina - 9
South Carolina - 4
Dear years of 2002-to-2004, your dreaded memories have now been excorsized. And with the series win, UNC is back to make amends for its runner-up status in Omaha too. As was their recipe all weekend long, the Heels fell behind and fought their way back from an early deficit. Tonight it was a 4-1 after four innings. UNC tied things up in the 6th with the help of (what else?) an error and tiring arms on the mound. A Chad Flack two-run home run in the 7th broke the tie. UNC feasted on Gamecock relievers, scoring 20 runs in the 6th-through-9th innings in the three games.
- Prospects for Omaha:
Been-there-done-that. In fact, most first-year teams don't make it all the way to the title round like the Heels did last year, so their expectations will be to bring home a banner. With the still-deep arm staff and everyone back on offense, it won't be a surprise to see them play the second weekend again.


Oklahoma State - 2
Louisville - 20
Gah! You don't have to make such a bludgeoning statement Cards! What, a 1-0 win wouldn't have been enough? Actually, you can't feel any better for Coach McDonnell and Co. This was a major-league statement. And what an exciting team. The Cardinals hit well, they steal bases like mad and they have the second best team ERA in the country. (Tell me again how this team ended up third in the Big East?) The runs were raining runs left and right at Patterson Stadium, making this a nolo contendre after a handful of pitches. The top five in the lineup went 12-for-23 with 14 RBI in the game. Isaiah Howes was the biggest culprit, with a home run and six RBI on the day.
- Prospects for Omaha:
First of all, you have to realize these guys will face off with Rice in game one. I'm not sure they've seen anything like the Owl arms this entire season. That's a tough draw. I'm not counting them out of anything, especially after today's rout. It's just that teams like Rice and North Carolina are in their bracket.


Arizona State - 7
Mississippi - 1
Okay, I'm working on a theory here. As you may know, this was the first season that Pat Murphy was on the NCAA selection committee. Don't you think Murphy was relishing the chance to have an SEC team come to the desert? Maybe, just maybe? I DO know that Murphy was tired of being matched up with Cal State Fullerton - and actually any team in the West for that matter. So, despite nearly getting scalped by Will Kline on Saturday night, Ole Miss couldn't muster up another beauty of a pitching performance from Lance Lynn. Not surprisingly Brett Wallace, the hero of game one, got an RBI double in the 3rd and a two-run bomb in the 4th to pace the Devils.
- Prospects for Omaha.
The Devils will walk into Rosenblatt with the favorites tag placed squarely on their backs like a giant target. In both games of this Super Regional, ASU got more than enough pitching and that's what they needed. Now, if the hitting lives up to its mammoth billing, the title can be theirs.


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The rain-shortened Super Regional---

Oregon State - 1
Michigan - 0
Man, THIS is freakin' baseball. How awesome was this game? Zach Putnam was nails-tough, giving up an RBI bleeder through the left side with two out in the 9th, busting up his no-hitter and giving OSU the only run it would need. Incredible. This game went a swift two and a half hours before Joey Wong finally broke through to get the game-winning hit. It was one of those "too bad" games, 'coz both sides were playing awfully well. Too bad someone had to lose.
- Is this series over?
Hell no. Both teams are remarkably tough and have deep pitching staffs. In fact, color me surprised if this thing doesn't go to Tuesday. And last I checked, the weather is supposed to cooperate too.


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If there is ever a reason to cheer against a team---
As you stitch-heads know, I usually hate all teams on an even basis, but when Wichita fans were doing that "whoooop! woooo" thing during the UCI reliever warm-up throws, that sealed it. I didn't care if WSU lost at that point. Sorry Shock fans.


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Don't ever tell me that home field doesn't matter---
- Mississippi State feeds off its record home crowds to eliminate Clemson. Can you imagine if that Super Regional was played at Kingsmore Stadium?
- Wichita State getting a huge reversal of a call in the 9th inning vs. Irvine today. The umpires gave in to the vibe of a record crowd.


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It's now 6:15pm/3:15pm Pacific---
Right now, two games started at the same exact time. Oregon State-Michigan is 0-0 going into the top of the 9th. Oklahoma State-Louisville is 12 -2 UofL and in the bottom of the 4th. Wow. Let's hope for more OSU-Michigan type games in Omaha.


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Damb... er, I mean damn---
Just to show you that there are risks to posting my columns at 1 and 2am pacific time, there were three bad mistakes from last night's article that I made. Don't worry, all the screw-ups have been changed since I discovered them. Here they are:

1- In the opening to my column, I wrote "Christopher Walker" instead of "Christopher Walken". I deserve to be shot in one of his movies for that one.

2- I called tonight's Fullerton starting pitcher "John Kaplan" instead of "Jeff Kaplan". Well, that's not so bad, at least I didn't call him "Gabe".

3- I made the statement in my weather synopsis that the UNC-South Carolina game started at 3pm, but it was actually at 7pm. I never learned to tell time... especially in different time zones.


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Celebrity assists---
When George Horton was asked about the game-winning hit from Matt Wallach tonight, he answered with this, "Tommy LaSorda gave him some hitting tips in batting practice today. Maybe that made a difference." The longtime Dodger skipper was in the crowd tonight, sitting about five seats down from me on the press row in front of the press box.

TommyLasorda.jpg
(Tommy Lasorda made it out to today's game in Fullerton)

Coach Horton also assured us in the media after the game that Kevin Costner was all set to come to Goodwin Field if there was a game three on Monday. "He told me he couldn't make today's game because of a commitment, but had a helicopter ready to bring him from Aspen if there was a game three. That's no lie. He said he was going to land the helicopter on the soccer field behind the stadium."


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Okay, speaking of late, it's now 2am. Any mistakes, typos or omissions you find, don't worry, I'll catch it later. Right now, I'm going to bed after posting this.

G'night.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert