Rosenblog 2006

Will Kimmey and Aaron Fitt will be sharing their thoughts throughout the next week and a half of the College World Series.

Bard’s Best
Tuesday, June 27, 12:53 a.m.

Daniel Bard entered Monday’s night’s game as a wild card. His mid-90s fastball made him a first-round pick, but he didn’t make it out of the third inning in a super-regional start at Alabama and surrendered five runs and 12 hits in six innings against Cal State Fullerton in the College World Series.

Bard delivered one of his best performances in the biggest start of his career. He allowed six hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings. Oregon State scored three times against him, but only one of the runs was earned. He became the hard-luck loser when Bill Rowe, whom he walked with two outs in the eighth, came around to score on Bryan Steed’s throwing error.

“Daniel was terrific, absolutely terrific,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. “You saw tonight why people thought so highly of Daniel Bard.”

Bard was shaky early, committing two errors on a bunt that allowed Oregon State to score twice (one run was earned) in the fourth inning. His teammates tied the game in the top of the fifth, and then he settled in. Bard retired 13 batters in a row dating to the last two outs of the fourth, and he cruised from the fifth through seventh inning on 24 total pitches. He retired the first two men in the eighth inning before walking Rowe on at least two pitches that looked to be strikes. Then Tyler Graham hit a looper that might have broken a wooden bat but instead went for a single to end Bard’s night.

His last 42 pitches were fastballs, and he reached 98 mph several times from the first inning until his last pitch with two outs in the eighth. “After the fourth inning, I was 100 percent fastballs,” said Bard, “My slider and change were OK, but they really weren’t hitting my fastball so I stuck with it.”

Barney Understands

Tuesday, June 27, 12:43 a.m.

Oregon State shortstop Darwin Barney made three errors in the CWS, sandwiching both ends of his team’s 50 1/3-inning errorless streak in Omaha. His fifth-inning error allowed North Carolina to tie the game with two unearned runs. So of all the people in the ballpark, the sophomore knew exactly how North Carolina’s Bryan Steed felt after making a throwing error that allowed Oregon State to score the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

“I feel terrible for the guy,” Barney said. “It’s something that could happen to anyone, and I hope that’s not the only memory he takes home from the College World Series.”

Mike’s Maneuvers
Monday, June 26, 5:19 p.m.

North Carolina coach Mike Fox juggled his defensive alignment a day after stating that he wasn’t pleased with how his team caught the ball. Chad Flack moves from first base to make his second start of the year at third base. Tim Federowicz, who normally alternates between catcher and DH, makes his fourth start of the year at first base. And Reid Fronk, who had been playing third base, plays as the DH for the first time this season.

The Tar Heels also changed their uniforms, breaking out a road gray version with light blue peaking out from under the sleeves. North Carolina hasn’t worn this jersey during the NCAA tournament, opting for the white pants and Carolina blue top as its road look.

One Final Game
Monday, June 26, 4:26 p.m.

Thanks to Oregon State executing an impressive comeback to tie this series at a game apiece, we all get one more college baseball game to cap what’s been a great season. It also granted me an afternoon in which to get one more whiskey filet at the Drover. Seriously, if you come to Omaha and don’t eat at the Drover, don’t bother coming.

Yesterday also brought yet another correct pick for Aaron, who’s come correct on predicting the winners of each of the last seven games after a 4-4 start. I lost again. Maybe I’ll need to cede my job to Aaron and his infinite college baseball wisdom. He’s abandoning Oregon State today in favor of North Carolina. That makes me feel good because I had also decided on the Tar Heels tonight, and now I know an expert shares the same opinion.

Will (8-7): North Carolina
Aaron (11-4): North Carolina

It Comes Down To This
Sunday, June 25, 10:51 p.m.

Just as it entered the championship series, North Carolina again will face Oregon State with the advantage of a rested pitching staff in the game that will decide the national title.

Righthander Daniel Bard will pitch for North Carolina. He allowed five runs on 12 hits over six innings and 103 pitches in a 6-5 win Wednesday against Cal State Fullerton. Behind Bard, North Carolina will have fresh relievers in Jonathan Hovis and Andrew Carignan, who did not pitch in Sunday’s loss. Freshman righthander Luke Putkonen, normally UNC’s fourth starter, will be available, as will ace Andrew Miller, who left after 77 pitches following a rain delay Saturday.

Oregon State coach Pat Casey again said he wasn’t sure who would start his team’s next game, but expect Jonah Nickerson to get the call. Nickerson already has earned two wins in Omaha, but has thrown 224 pitches since last Monday to do so. Normally pitchers working on short rest don’t feel the effects until the outing following the quick turnaround, and that’s the one Nickerson is eying.

“It doesn’t really matter to us,” said closer Kevin Gunderson, who worked a season-high 5 1/3 innings Sunday but likely will be available if needed Monday. “What more could you ask for than to play for a national championship? There are a lot of teams sitting at home right now. No one’s tired or hurt at this point in the season.”

Tigers Coaching Tales
Sunday, June 25, 3:56 p.m.

Louisiana State baseball always is a hot topic in Omaha, mostly because so many locals adopted a team that seemingly played here every year in the 1990s. Everyone wants to know who will replace Smoke Laval as LSU’s coach. Alabama’s Jim Wells joined Mississippi’s Mike Bianco and South Carolina’s Ray Tanner in taking his name out of the running, but there appear to be two giant names atop athletics director Skip Bertman’s wish list now.

Miami’s Jim Morris and Notre Dame’s Paul Mainieri could both be offered packages topping $500,000 a year to take over in Baton Rouge. Morris might have a tough call leaving Miami, but Mainieri has done plenty at Notre Dame, reaching Omaha in 2002 and making the tournament the last eight seasons.

Turtle Thomas, one of the LSU assistants shown the door along with Laval, will resurface at Arizona State. He’ll join former Yankees player and coach Andy Stankiewicz on the Sun Devils bench.

Day Nine Picks

Sunday, June 25, 3:45 p.m.

Today could be it for the CWS if North Carolina wins. Or maybe this is the day Oregon State starts a comeback that helps it become the first team to ever lose twice in Omaha and still win the national title.

I’m predicting the former scenario, while Aaron’s going with the latter as he hops back aboard the Beaver Express.

Will (8-6): North Carolina
Aaron (10-4): Oregon State

Miller’s Short Time
Saturday, June 24, 11:42 p.m.

A sixth-inning rain delay left North Carolina coach Mike Fox with a tough decision. Andrew Miller, his ace lefthander and the College Player of the Year, had just surrendered a two-run home run to Cole Gillespie, though he had thrown 77 pitches–about 30-40 shy of his pitch count.

“After 70 minutes, I felt like that was too long,” Fox said. “Andrew wanted to go back out, but I felt like it wasn’t in his best interest. He’s got a bright future, and we didn’t want to take any chances with that.”

Fox also said his confidence in a bullpen that, after North Carolina’s 4-3 win, hasn’t allowed a run in 12 2/3 innings at the College World Series also factored into his decision to sit a player drafted sixth overall by the Tigers.

“I was a little upset when I was not able to go back out,” said Miller, who said he would feel ready to pitch in relief if the series went to a decisive third game Monday. “I appreciate the coaches taking care of me. I know a lot of pitchers get abused by coaches.”

Thanks For Coming Out
Saturday, June 24, 9:12 p.m.

Wednesday’s Session 10 set a record by drawing 30,355 fans to two games, with about 17,000 estimated at the North Carolina-Cal State Fullerton game and the rest of that figure at the Oregon State-Rice game later that night. Rosenblatt Stadium doesn’t hold that many people at one time, but having two separate games allowed general admission seats vacated after the first game to get re-filled (and re-counted) later.

Saturday’s attendance of 26,808 didn’t include any double-dipping, but still set a record for a championship series game thanks to an influx of North Carolina and Oregon State fans eager to see their teams’ first shot at a national title. That figure pushed the CWS total to 266,998, which established a new record. The tournament average of 24,272 through Saturday night was also on pace for a record.

Bucking Up

Saturday, June 24, 3:56 p.m.

Oregon State will start righthander Dallas Buck tonight against North Carolina. He’s been bothered by a ligament strain in his right elbow and told coach Pat Casey he wouldn’t be able to work deep into Thursday’s game against Rice. The Corvallis Gazette-Times reported he would have surgery at the end of the college season.

“I’ll be able to pitch,” Buck told the paper. “My arm feels the same as it always has all year. I could have started (Thursday). Jonah (Nickerson) has better stuff right now, so he started.”

Day Eight Picks
Saturday, June 24, 3:05 p.m.

I was one of the first people in the ballpark today, but it’s an exciting time of the season and there was no reason to waste the day in the hotel. It allowed me to witness the public address announcer running through the pregame player introductions, and assorted members of the grounds stood in for the actual players. Kevin Gunderson’s representative was bigger than he actually is.

Aaron has ridden the Oregon State train the entire CWS, never picking against them. That ends today. He’s seen the train Andrew Miller is driving for North Carolina and has decided it’s faster and stronger. I’ve also got a ticket to ride.

Will (7-6): North Carolina
Aaron (9-4): North Carolina

I Can See KC
Saturday, June 24, 2:49 p.m.

The RosenBlog returns after a one-day hiatus. Time was short Friday as Kansas City called from 177 miles away. The mini-vacation down there couldn’t have been a better way to spend time, and I’d recommend this itinerary for anyone with a day to kill in Omaha that’s not spent at the zoo.

The first stop was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at 18th and Vine streets. It’s right in the epicenter of black culture from the first half of the 1900s, when the Kansas City Monarchs were one of the key franchises. The museum has helped to revitalize that part of town, which had fallen to poverty and crime. Part of that revitalization includes a Jazz In Kansas City museum, that’s a $2 add-on to the $6 Negro Leagues museum admission.

There’s a ton to learn at the museum, but the one feeling that overtakes you as you walk through is how sad it is that players such as Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell never got to play in the majors.

Less than a half mile from the museum sits Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque. It’s a small, cafeteria-style looking place, but the line was out the door. Plus, if you google “kansas city + bbq”, it’s the third result.

There was no disappointment. I couldn’t decide what to get until spying the Meat Tray on the menu. For just $10.95, I got giant portions of pork, beef and ribs slapped atop a red cafeteria tray. No plate, no worries. Kirk Kenney, who made the trip with me, said I was never more excited during the course of the day than during lunch. And he was right.

The day ended at Kauffman Stadium with a game between the Royals and Brewers. El Caballo (Carlos Lee) and Prince Fielder put on a display during batting practice, which really was the highlight of the on-field action.

It was interesting to see the large and vocal contingent of Brewers fans at the K and to hear how knowledgeable the KC fans were. A 20-something female behind me was criticizing Royals outfielder David DeJesus for taking a bad route on a first-inning double by Geoff Jenkins. That’s my kind of town.

Day Seven Picks
Thursday, June 22, 6:25 p.m.

Man, another 1-1 day has me still at .500. It’s interesting to note that I missed only one pick on the North Carolina side of the bracket (taking Cal State Fullerton over UNC in the opener), while I’ve hit on only one pick on the Oregon State-Rice side (getting Rice’s win against Miami correct).

Seeking more guidance, I went to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha today. I was wandering through the swamp exhibit in the basement of the desert dome–that big Epcot Center-looking thing you see over the right-field wall at Rosenblatt Stadium–and came upon a beaver gnawing away at a carrot. He looked happy. A few feet away, I saw three owls. They looked bored. So I’m taking the Beavers over the Owls tonight.

Aaron, who went 2-0 again yesterday, called in with his picks after I had made my decision. He went way out on a limb to take OSU yesterday, and he’s still bonkers for Beavers.

By the way, Jonah Nickerson will start tonight for Oregon State just three days after he threw seven innings to beat Georgia 5-3. He’ll start, but expect to see healthy does of Eddie Kunz and Kevin Gunderson, and maybe even Dallas Buck. He recorded a save last year as the Beavers clinched their super-regional series against Southern California.

Will (6-6): Oregon State
Aaron (8-4): Oregon State

Starting Pitchers (We Think)
Wednesday, June 21, 6:03 p.m.

Oregon State coach Pat Casey and Rice coach Wayne Graham have played announcing their starters for tonight a bit coy. Graham has settled on junior righty Craig Crow (8-1, 3.28). Sophomore righthander Daniel Turpen (2-0, 3.42) is most likely to start for Oregon State, though Casey still might go with sophomore lefty Joe Patterson (1-0, 4.28). Turpen made only one start all season, while Patterson has yet to start a game.

Wow, Wes
Wednesday, June 21, 4:12 p.m.

Wes Roemer just walked Reid Fronk. That’s his seventh walk in 150 2/3 innings this year. That was on the list of things I didn’t expect to see in Omaha.

Day Six Picks
Wednesday, June 21, 11:50 a.m.

My picks continue to be aggressively mediocre as I hover at .500 following another 1-1 day. Aaron went 2-0 to grab a one-game lead, and I’m sure at least one of you cares.

We both like North Carolina tonight, though it’s hard to pick against Cal State Fullerton for the first time in the tournament. The Titans rarely go away easily, which is apparent if you’ve seen any of their three games out here. There’s the chance that Wes Roemer guts up and deals, but it’s really hard to see what answers Fullerton would have if it forced a decisive game. Then again, I still remember Scott Sarver in 2004.

For the late game, Aaron’s sticking with the Beavers, whom he’s picked as a winner every game in which they’ve played. He’s been right twice. I’ve picked the Oregon State outcome incorrectly every time, as it seems to do the opposite of whatever I guess. I’m going with Rice, because with Anton Maxwell–last year’s No. 3 starter for OSU–comporting himself in such a way that he wasn’t allowed to travel here with the team, OSU looks short on arms.

Will (5-5): North Carolina, Rice
Aaron (6-4): North Carolina, Oregon State

Video, Tell Me, What’s The Scenario
Wednesday, June 21, 11:33 a.m.

Most coaches like to watch video of their upcoming opponents to augment their scouting reports. Oregon State coach Pat Casey is no different, and he asked a member of his baseball operations staff to record Monday’s Rice-Miami game. Casey popped in the tape, and saw the Yankees playing the Phillies. The video guy recorded ESPN instead of ESPN2.

Oregon State won its rematch with Miami anyway, setting up a matchup tonight with Rice.

“Tomorrow, I’ll watch Cardinals-White Sox and I’ll have Rice figured out,” Casey said last night.

Roemer’s Ready

Tuesday, June 20, 10:20 p.m.

Wes Roemer notched the final two outs of Cal State Fullerton’s 7-6 win against Clemson on Tuesday, and he’s ready to start against North Carolina on Wednesday. He allowed five runs over eight innings in his first start against the Tar Heels, a game they won 6-5 in 13 innings, but doesn’t think the hitters necessarily have an advantage after already having faced him.

“I learned stuff from them, too,” Roemer said. “Hopefully my stuff will be better, my slider will come out this time.

“I can go as many as they throw me out there for, 12 or 13 innings if they need me to.”

Fullerton coach George Horton apparently liked that response.

“Yeah!” he exclaimed. “I’ll sleep better tonight.”

Demmink Delivers Again

Tuesday, June 20, 10:01 p.m.

After Clemson held its final CWS postgame press conference, senior DH Herman Demmink asked an NCAA official if he could take the placard bearing his name. He collected it, then moved to the front of the dais and picked up the placards for his other teammates to keep as mementos.

No one deserved it more than Demmink. He was the go-to quote for the media, always describing the team’s pulse and feelings with answers that offered more nuance and thought than cliche or playerspeak. Clemson won its opener 8-4, and Demmink went 0-for-3 and was pinch-hit for but still came to the presser and fielded questions selflessly.

So all the media in Omaha, especially those that leaned on Demmink all year covering Clemson, had to be happy to see Demmink record three hits, two runs and two RBIs in the 7-6 loss to Cal State Fullerton.

Demmink left us all with another fine parting nugget when most other players would have been too distraught with having their seasons and careers ended to string sensible words together.

“This has been one of the most prolific and tough teams I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this team the last four years.”

I Am Not Tiger Woods

Tuesday, June 20, 5:54 p.m.

I participated in the first CWS media golf outing today, and the three others in my foursome–Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Rob Anderson of Creighton and Aaron Blau of Iowa–all shot like the weather out there: the upper 80s and low 90s.

How did I shoot? Like the warmest place most people can name, the one with the little red guy with horns and a pitchfork.

I’ll take a 114 for my second day on a golf course, but the day isn’t so much about how you shoot as how much fun you have. (That, I’ve been told, is what all those who shoot triple figures say.) Rob actually won the closest to the pin contest and got a dozen golf balls as a prize.

I figured that might be something I’d need after losing two balls on my first hole. But while looking for yet another lost ball on the second hole, I found a Nike ball in the brush and decided to just play that one.

My friend Nolan Hayes, who’s out here covering North Carolina for the Durham Herald-Sun, is about the biggest Nike backer I can think of, and after the way I played the Nike ball, I’m starting to hop on the train. That ball stayed with me for 10 more holes and even when I shot it into the woods, it always seemed to find a tree and ricochet back onto the course for me.

The Nike ball finally got lost in some rough, but in looking for it I found four other balls and scooped them all up. So I ended up plus-one on the ball count by the end of the day. I wasn’t as lucky in our other contests, leaving a chip shot that would have won a steak dinner on the lip of the cup at one point.

Closing Time
Tuesday, June 20, 4:00 p.m.

Cal State Fullerton came to Omaha without closer Vinnie Pestano, who’s out for the year with an elbow injury. Today, the Titans came to the park without current closer Ryan Paul, who was back at the hotel feeling sick. If things get close, Paul could be summoned from the hotel.

Otherwise, lefty John Estes and righty Adam Jorgenson, who both threw well against Georgia Tech, will get the call. And Wes Roemer, who started Friday’s loss to North Carolina and is the scheduled starter tomorrow should Fullerton win this game, may also find his way into the mix.

Day Five Picks
Tuesday, June 20, 3:44 p.m.

Elimination Tuesday already has claimed one victim: my sidekick Aaron Fitt is on a plane home right now. Last year, he was flying during the stunning Arizona State-Nebraska game as well as the Baylor comeback against Tulane. Just. Bad. Luck.

Speaking of luck, I need some as the picks continue today. Aaron, while flying to the East Coast, is going straight West Coast with his picks: Cal State Fullerton and Oregon State.

I was subject to a bribe for my picks. Kristen Alderson, the wife of CSF radio voice Justin Alderson, sent me homemade cookies. They’re an oatmeal-peanut butter-M&M combo, and they win the Kimberly Jackson Award for Culinary Excellence. OK, I am picking Fullerton, but because of Lauren Gagnier, not the cookies.

The cookies have helped me with a tough decision on the late game. I just ate one that had orange and green M&M’s on top. So I’m picking Miami.

Will (4-4): Cal State Fullerton, Miami
Aaron (4-4): Cal State Fullerton, Oregon State

A Look Ahead

Monday, June 19, 10:15 p.m.

Here’s some quick info on Elimination Tuesday’s games:

Clemson will serve as the home team against Cal State Fullerton in the 4 p.m. CT start. The Tigers will go with righthander Jason Berken (9-3, 2.90). He left his super-regional start with a concussion after a collision while covering first base.

Fullerton will go with righthander Lauren Gagnier (14-5, 2.52), who was the losing pitcher after working 2 2/3 innings (43 pitches) in Friday’s 13-inning loss to North Carolina. Gagnier battled food poisoning Sunday, but his arm was fine. He’ll seek win No. 15, which would give him sole possesion of the national lead. He and Texas Christian’s Jake Arrieta are tied with 14 wins.

Miami will play as the home team in a rematch against Oregon State in the late game, which should begin near 8:30 CT. The Beavers hope for a better start from righthander Mike Stutes (7-2, 2.88) than what they got out of Dallas Buck in an 11-1 loss to Miami in their CWS opener. Miami was still debating between lefthander Manny Miguelez (8-4, 4.31) and righthander Carlos Gutierrez (9-6, 4.08), whom Miami coach Jim Morris called his secret weapon.

Gutierrez hasn’t pitched since May 19, and it was originally thought he would need Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the year. It turned out he has a less serious arm injury, and he’s been throwing the last two weeks in preparation for a possible postseason start. He’ll still require a medical procedure in the offseason.


Brothers Act
Monday, June 19, 9:59 p.m.

The Jemile Weeks postseason extravaganza–he’s batting .515 in the NCAA tournament–has most people aware that he’s the younger brother of 2003 College Player of the Year and NCAA Division I batting leader Rickie Weeks, but that wasn’t the only little brother on the field for Miami in Monday’s 3-2 loss to Rice.

Hurricanes junior righthander Danny Gil’s older brother David pitched at Miami from 1997-2000 before becoming a third-round pick of the Reds. The elder Gil also made a CWS start against Rice, his turn coming in 1999. He called his younger brother, who didn’t allow an earned run in winning his first two postseason starts, with some advice.

“He told me don’t get caught up in the atmosphere in the biggest stage in college baseball,” Danny said. “He said I’ve done a great job so far and keep doing what I’m doing.”

Gil delivered his longest outing of the year, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing three runs–one earned–on five hits. Miami coach Jim Morris complimented the outing, saying his starter threw well enough to win if it hadn’t been for the Hurricanes committing two errors behind him.


Casey Don’t Lose That Number
Monday, June 19, 5:25 p.m.

Oregon State coach Pat Casey changed his lineup and even his style of play to an extent Monday, opting for a more aggressive offensive style. Those changes were his decisions; his uniform was not. Casey normally wears No. 5, as he did in the home whites Saturday night. But today his black Beavers jersey had No. 4 on the back.

Casey’s normal jersey got soaked when he found himself under a tipped-over water bucket during the super-regional clinching celebration last weekend against Stanford. It was taken to the dry cleaners and didn’t get put with the stack of jerseys that had the CWS patch sewn on them and then were shipped to Omaha. So Casey wore the jersey of Greg Keim, a junior righthander not on the 25-man CWS roster.

“I’m not superstitious, so it’s back to 5 tomorrow,” Casey said. “Unless we’re the road team and I have to wear this black one again.”


Gundy Makes Good
Monday, June 19, 5:11 p.m.

I couldn’t resist the chance to chat for a few minutes with Oregon State closer Kevin Gunderson after the press conference today–he’s one of the best quotes around. He talked a little about the now-quasi-famous guarantee he made a year ago that the Beavers would be back in Omaha in 2006.

“I heard a lot about it throughout the year, but a lot of it was just joking around. I heard about it a little bit more as regionals and super-regionals approached, but no one on the team has been thinking about that,” Gunderson said. “We expected to be here, with the type of team that we have, and we know there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be.”

He also had a message for people who wrote off the Beavers following their 11-1 throttling at the hands of Miami.

“We’re not going to fold, and pack up our tent and head home to Oregon because we lost one game,” Gunderson said. “It’s going to take some wins, and it’s going to be a difficult road, but if any team can do it, it can be us.”


Not On His Side
Monday June 19, 1:55 p.m.

Georgia’s Joey Side should have two hits already. Instead, he’s 0-for-2. That’s because of Oregon State center fielder Tyler Graham, the fastest player on the Beavers roster now that he’s fully healthy following a nagging hamstring problem that hindered him most of the year.

Graham made a leaping grab on the warning track in left-center field to rob Side of extra bases in the first inning. In Side’s next at-bat, he lost a single to short left center into the glove of a diving Graham.

That’s just part of a strong start for Graham. He singled and scored the first Oregon State run in the second inning, then lay down a perfect two-out bunt for an RBI single an inning later. His Beavers lead 4-1 heading to the bottom of the fourth inning.


Day Four Picks
Monday, June 19, 12:24 p.m.

After taking my beatings early in the event and all of last year, for that matter, I’ll pound the chest today after a 2-0 Father’s Day. That’s for you, Dad.

Today could be moving day in the picks race. Aaron and I are both at .500 after three days, and we’re making divergent choices. Oregon State is one of just three teams to lose the first five CWS games in which it’s played. North Carolina won its sixth game, beating St. John’s with help from a home run by current Tar Heels coach Mike Fox. Baylor won its sixth game as well, beating Oregon State last year for its first CWS win.

Aaron will back the Beavers behind their best pitcher, Jonah Nickerson, and I’m sticking with Georgia after predicting and getting a late rally from it in the first game. I just didn’t see the bullpen coming up short for the first time in a long time.

Aaron’s buying into the U in Game Two. (That’s Miami, not Michigan or Minnesota for you Midwesterners.) He likes that the freshmen keep developing and how well Danny Gil has thrown in two postseason starts. I’m on Rice to finally stop the Hurricanes postseason victory train.

Will (3-3): Georgia, Rice
Aaron (3-3): Oregon State, Miami


Relief For The Relievers
Sunday, June 18, 9:25 p.m.

Robert Woodard’s complete-game shutout Sunday in North Carolina’s 2-0 win against Clemson granted the rest of the Tar Heels staff some much-needed rest. UNC coach Mike Fox didn’t have to call on a bullpen that threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings and 73 pitches in Friday’s 13-inning win against Cal State Fullerton.

And, by staying in the winner’s bracket, the entire team and staff gets two days off as they wait to face the winner of Tuesday’s Cal State Fullerton-Clemson elimination game. And waiting for the winner of that game is first-round pick Daniel Bard. By then, Jonathan Hovis, Matt Danford and Andrew Carignan–the relievers who worked Friday–will have had four full days of rest.


Sunday, June 18, 9:10 p.m.

Yeah, that’s right, no “O.” Clemson has batted in 17 innings thus far in the College World Series, and aside from an eight-run, seven-hit explosion in the eighth inning the Georgia Tech game, the Tigers haven’t scored and have amassed just five hits. Clemson is batting 5-for-53 outside of that crazy eighth inning–a batting average of .094–and only one leadoff man has reached base.

“I think we’re a little better offensive team that what we’ve shown,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “We’ve got to make better adjustments, get leadoff men on and get into our game. I was sitting over there (in the third base coach’s box) alone a lot.”


Off The (Vander)hook
Sunday, June 18, 7:55 p.m.

Cory Vanderhook didn’t have to wait long for redemption.

Cal State Fullerton’s senior catcher was picked off third base in the 11th inning of a 13-inning loss against North Carolina on Friday night, and with John Curtis getting the start behind the plate Sunday, Vanderhook wasn’t sure when he would get a chance to atone for his costly blunder.

“We were kind of joking around today in the bullpen–I was out there warming up some pitchers, and the other catchers were saying, ‘You were kind of the goat the other night. Maybe you’ll have a chance to be the hero today,’ ” Vanderhook said. “And I guess I came through. It wasn’t the best hit ever, but I’ll take it.”

The hit in question was a bounding chopper over the head of Georgia Tech closer Matt Wieters with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning and Fullerton down 5-4. With their season hanging in the balance, the Titans called upon Vanderhook to pinch hit for Joe Turgeon, and Vanderhook delivered the strangest two-run single that CSF coach George Horton or Tech coach Danny Hall could remember. The ball took a funny right turn in front of Yellow Jackets shortstop Michael Fisher, allowing Blake Davis to score from third and Brett Pill to come all the way around from second.

“I didn’t realize we scored two runs off of it until I ran for the bag and turned back around, I looked over at third and there was nobody at third,” Vanderhook said. “I looked at the scoreboard and we were up 7-5.”

Give Vanderhook credit: he promised his teammates he wouldn’t let Georgia Tech win, and he delivered. A year ago, Vanderhook played for South Carolina, and he saw the Gamecocks’ season end in the regionals with a loss to the Yellow Jackets. He didn’t expect to get another crack at them in the postseason after he transferred to Cal State Fullerton.

“I was telling the guys today, ‘If I get a chance to get in there, I’m not going to let Georgia Tech end my season twice,’ ” Vanderhook said.

He made the decision to jump across country and walk on at Fullerton for his senior year after playing just 30 games at South Carolina last season. It was an easy choice for the Fountain Valley, Calif., native who grew up in the same neighborhood as Titans infielders Blake Davis and Justin Turner, his friends since age 5. And oh yeah, his uncle Rick Vanderhook is Horton’s assistant coach and third-base coach. That doesn’t hurt, either.

“Coach Vanderhook, my uncle, he came up to me before I walked into the box, and he told me to hit it hard. I didn’t really do that, but I got lucky,” Vanderhook said.

“It was that much sweeter because of what happened the other night.”


This One’s Got To Sting
Sunday, June 18, 4:50 p.m.

For the second straight College World Series game, Georgia Tech coughed up an early 4-0 lead, but this time the Yellow Jackets retook the lead on a Matt Wieters solo homer in the seventh. It looked like their 5-4 lead was going to stand up, with Wieters on the mound trying to close it out. But with two outs and the bases empty in the ninth inning, the next five Titans reached base, highlighted by pinch-hitter Cory Vanderhook’s two-run chopper to second base that put Cal State Fullerton on top for good. The Titans held on for a 7-5 win to send Georgia Tech home and foil Will Kimmey, who had already finished writing his story when Fullerton’s late rally forced him to start from scratch.


Guillie Again
Sunday, June 18, 4:01 p.m.

Home plate umpire Paul Guillie just called a balk on Georgia Tech righthander Brad Rulon for not coming to a discernable stop. It moved David Cooper into scoring position at second base with two outs in the eighth inning. Tech leads 5-4 and just brought Matt Wieters to the mound from his catcher’s position.

Guillie called a balk on Arizona State righthander Zech Zinicola last year in a super-regional at Fullerton. The balk was called during an intentional walk and sent the game-winning run home from third base in the bottom of the ninth inning.


Beers With Beavers Fans
Sunday, June 18, 1:58 p.m.

Aside from the baseball, the thing that makes coming to Omaha so much fun each year is the people. And the fun comes as much from seeing old friends as making new ones.

Cindy and Bob Partridge, the aunt and uncle of Oregon State center fielder Tyler Graham, tracked down Aaron and I last night at Old Chicago and invited us to a table of other Beavers supporters that included friends and family members of third baseman Shea McFeely and catcher Mitch Canham.

We all shared stories and pizzas along with glasses of our favorite beverages (mine being Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss and Boulevard Wheat).


Day Three Picks
Sunday, June 18, 12:14 p.m.

Happy Father’s Day from Omaha! I’ve still got some Father’s Day phone calls to make before the games start, so I’m going to make this short and sweet.

Will and I both like Cal State Fullerton in the first game today. Dustin Miller is a tough, oft-overlooked pitcher, and I have more confidence in him today than a streaky Blake Wood for Georgia Tech. Plus, I can’t imagine you’ll see the Titans leave runners on base and make the kind of mistakes they made in Friday’s loss to North Carolina.

In the nightcap, Will is taking the Tar Heels, and I’m going with Clemson. Robert Woodard is getting the start for UNC (not Daniel Bard as has been reported in some places), but Will speculates we might see Bard throw an inning or so in relief today if needed, particularly after the 13-inning drain on UNC’s bullpen in the opener. But Clemson is a deep, balanced team with enough firepower to get to the wily Woodard, and Tigers starter Stephen Faris has been outstanding this year.

Will (1-3): Cal State Fullerton, North Carolina
Aaron (2-2): Cal State Fullerton, Clemson


Delaying The Inevitable?
Saturday, June 17, 9:33 p.m.

A 94-minute rain delay stopped the Miami-Oregon State game after seven innings. The Hurricanes lead 7-0 and are six outs away from advancing to the winners’ bracket. The next pitch is scheduled for 9:45 Central Time.

Remember Baylor beat Tulane 8-7 after trailing 7-0 at the end of the sixth inning last year, and maybe there’s still hope for Oregon State. But we’re taking the NCAA’s advice and not betting on it.

ACC Looking Awesome
Saturday, June 17, 7:40 p.m.

Miami absolutely hammered Oregon State ace Dallas Buck. Ten of the 22 Hurricanes that stepped to the plate against him reached base, Miami went up 7-0 and Buck’s day ended after five innings.

Miami doesn’t look like a team that finished in fifth place in its conference, and Oregon State doesn’t look like a team that won its league. But those facts are true. Maybe that speaks to a larger fact about the strength of the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.

When the ACC sent a record-tying four teams to Omaha this year, some wondered how significant that accomplishment was for a conference that hadn’t produced a national champion since Wake Forest in 1955. Well, through three and a half games, Clemson and North Carolina are undefeated and Miami seems well on its way to giving the ACC three of the four 1-0 teams.

Georgia Tech lost to Clemson, but the Yellow Jackets could reinforce their league’s strength Sunday by eliminating Cal State Fullerton, which lost its opener against North Carolina. That, plus Miami’s holding on against Oregon State tonight, would give the ACC a giant boost with wins against the best two teams from the West Coast.


Rain Delay? Ha!
Saturday, June 17, 7:25 p.m.

Rain began to fall in the middle of the fifth inning of the Miami-Oregon State game. The umpires pulled the players off the field and the grounds crew rolled the tarp out in short right field. Then the rain started to slow, the fans began to boo the delay and the umpires instructed to crew to do roll up the tarp rather than spread it across the infield.

The total delay officially lasted four minutes, an announcement that brought laughter to the press box. ESPN CWS statistics guru Brad Edwards speculated it was the shortest delay in CWS history, and moments later official scorer Lou Spry confirmed the trivial fact.


A Quick Peek Ahead
Saturday, June 17, 4:58 p.m.

Rice coach Wayne Graham didn’t have a straight answer when asked who he planned to start Tuesday. The obvious choice would be Craig Crow or Bobby Bell, a pair of righthanders who each won eight games for the Owls this year, but Graham revealed there was a possibility he would opt for lefthander Cole St.Clair, his normal closer, instead.

St.Clair came up huge for Rice in the third game of its super-regional win against Oklahoma. Graham called upon him with two outs in the first inning after the Sooners had already scored two runs. St.Clair held Oklahoma to three runs over 5 1/3 innings to pick up the win, and Bryce Cox pitched the final three innings to get the save.

St. Clair faced just two batters in Saturday’s win against Georgia before Graham called on Cox again for the final 2 2/3. That would leave St.Clair fresh enough to start against the winner of this afternoon’s Oregon State-Miami game.

If Miami wins, it’s even more likely that St. Clair will get the nod, because the Hurricanes typically start five lefthanded hitters, including key offensive players Tommy Giles, Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso. The primary lefthanded threats for the Beavers are Mitch Canham and Bill Rowe, but All-American Cole Gillespie and all of Oregon State’s other regulars are righthanded.


Rice Takes It
Saturday, June 17, 4:03 p.m.

Joe Savery’s two-run single in the seventh inning put Rice ahead for good against Georgia, as Bryce Cox worked 2 2/3 innings for the win. Savery reached base four times on a walk and three singles. Eddie Degerman carried a no-hitter into the seventh, but his pitch count was his undoing, thanks to eight walks.

Oregon State and Miami will get started two hours from now.

More to come on the Owls-Bulldogs.


Checking In With A Former CWS MVP
Saturday, June 17, 2:57 p.m.

Dave Winfield stopped by Rosenblatt Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the first time since he was here as a two-way star for Minnesota in 1973.

“I remember it was a great facility and there were a lot of people here, but I don’t remember much else. We weren’t focused on any of the side issues, just on our hotel, our practice and the game before us,” said Winfield, now a vice president and senior adviser for the Padres.

“Even driving here today I didn’t recognize everything. Once I got inside the ballpark, it felt familiar even though it’s a lot bigger and there have been improvements and there’s all kinds of media and TV people.”

There was no television coverage when Winfield played, and to this day he’s still searching for some video clips to document his days as a righthander. “It’s all oral history,” he said. Winfield went 9-1, 2.74 with 109 strikeouts in 82 innings as a senior while batting .385-8-33 in 130 at-bats.

Winfield set a record with 29 strikeouts over two games in the ’73 CWS, recording 14 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout against Oklahoma and then striking out 15 batters in 8 1/3 innings in an 8-7 loss to Southern California. He also went 7-for-15 at the plate and was named the event’s MVP even though Minnesota was eliminated before USC beat Arizona State in the final.

“I was playing the best baseball of my career when I came here,” Winfield said. “I was excited to be here. That was the first time in three years that I was allowed to hit. I was just a pitcher my first three years, but I had a few good summers in Alaska at Fairbanks and I went to coach and said I’ve got to hit my senior year.

“I demonstrated what I could do, and the culmination was here when I hit one out.”

Winfield still keeps in touch with the Gophers program, speaking with coach John Anderson occasionally, and he’s excited about the school’s push for a new stadium.

Winfield also was excited about being among the inaugural 10-member class that will be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame on July 4 in Lubbock, Texas.

“It’s nice when you think about all the people who played college baseball and in the College World Series,” said Winfield, who was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. “To go in the first class, it’s an honor to feel that people thought so highly of my career.”


Degerman Strikes Out Side–Again
Saturday, June 17, 2:45 p.m.

Pop quiz, hot shot: who holds the single-season strikeout record at Rice? You could be forgiven if you guessed Jeff Niemann or Wade Townsend or Philip Humber–those guys are all first-rounders, after all. So are Kenny Baugh and Jon Skaggs and Matt Anderson, but they don’t hold the record, either. The correct answer is Eddie Degerman, who broke Townsend’s three-year-old record with his 165th strikeout of the season in the sixth inning.

Degerman got the record by striking out All-American outfielder Joey Side for the third time today. He struck out the next batter, Gordon Beckham, as well, and now has eight Ks in the game.

For what it’s worth, he’s also got a no-hitter going through six innings, though he does have six walks. And he also threw his 100th pitch in the sixth, so it will be interesting to see how he holds up in the late innings. If he’s still got that no-hitter through eight innings, and his pitch count is up, and it remains a tight ballgame, I wonder if Wayne Graham will decide to yank him for Cole St. Clair, no-hitter or not.


Day Two Picks
Saturday, June 17, 12:38 p.m.

Welcome to the second day of fun at Rosenblatt. It feels like we just left, but a five-hour game followed by a press conference that takes 25 minutes to get started can do that to you.

Still, it’s hard to complain about a five-hour game as tense as North Carolina’s 7-5 win against Cal State Fullerton last night. That’s why we’re here, and let’s thank the Tar Heels for making their last two games (remember Chad Flack’s two-homer night at Alabama?) as exciting to watch as any this season.

A day after splitting a pair of games, Aaron and I guarantee no ties. If you want ties, go watch the World Cup. Both of us like Oregon State in the late game. The Beavers were here last year and lost two close games, but their experience and a man named Dallas Buck taking the mound give them the edge against Miami.

That means the early game awards the day’s winner. Aaron likes Rice this afternoon because it’s just darn hard to beat Eddie Degerman, especially for teams that haven’t seen him before. I’m going with Georgia because Brooks Brown has the arm to match Degerman zero for zero, and because the Bulldogs, especially in the NCAA tournament, have become one of those teams that doesn’t believe it can lose no matter how far it falls behind.

Will (1-1): Georgia, Oregon State
Aaron (1-1): Rice, Oregon State

Titans In Trouble
Friday, June 16, 11:59 p.m.

Cal State Fullerton is in a tough spot. Not only did the Titans lose their CWS opener, presenting them with the challenge of becoming just the second team since the 1979 Titans to win the College World Series after dropping its first game, but they burned their top two starting pitchers in the process.

Ace Wes Roemer gave Fullerton eight strong innings, but No. 2 starter Lauren Gagnier ended up throwing 43 pitches over 2 1/3 innings to boot, as the game dragged past the four-hour mark.

Gagnier, who had been slated to start Sunday, entered the game in the 11th and breezed his way through an efficient 1-2-3 inning, forcing Titans coach George Horton to make a choice. He could pull Gagnier after a workload that was comparable to his usual bullpen session two days before a start, or he could leave Gagnier in the game and start Dustin Miller on Sunday.

Horton decided it was too important to start off in the winner’s bracket.

“When we sent Gagnier out for the second inning, the decision was made that Miller would be the (Sunday) guy,” Horton said. “And we have a lot of confidence in Miller.”

He should be confident in Miller, who went 12-1, 2.95 in 92 innings this season. The problem is that the Titans don’t have anyone after Miller who made more than three starts this year, and their starting pitching is already stretched thin. Making a run through the loser’s bracket looks like a tall order.


Craziness Afoot
Friday, June 16, 10:10 p.m.

In case you missed the wild Fullerton 11th inning, it was something to behold. The Titans managed to send six batters to the plate–without the benefit of a hit and without scoring a run. The inning featured two batters reaching first base after striking out (thanks to a Tim Federowicz throwing error and passed ball), a runner picked off third base, and a diving catch on a wind-blown pop-up to end the inning with the bases loaded.

Strange that it was the normally fundamentally airtight Titans who lost a runner on the basepaths.

As for Federowicz, he got a lighthearted pep talk from UNC coach Mike Fox upon returning to the dugout–Fox tapped his catcher on the head and laughed, ensuring that there wouldn’t be any lingering tension.

A quick update on the wind, which was blowing out briskly to left-center in the afternoon game: it is now gusting in from left field, making it nearly impossible to hit a ball out of the park to left. Jay Cox hit a ball hard in that direction in the 11th inning, but it died just shy of the warning track.

No matter what happens with this game, Clemson has got to be pleased.


Clark’s Start Looks Smart
Friday, June 16, 5:01 p.m.

Clemson’s decision to start senior righthander Sean Clark against Georgia Tech didn’t look so great after he allowed three first-inning runs, including a two-run home run to Jeff Kindel. But things worked out for the Tigers, who scored eight times in the eighth inning for an 8-4 win.

Clark settled down after the first inning and worked into the seventh, allowing one more run.

“I didn’t really say anything to him (after the first inning),” Clemson pitching coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He’s a very level-headed kid. That’s why we started him in this game.”

Kindel’s home run came on a 1-0 changeup from Clark.

“The ball to Kindel was down, just not far enough,” Clark said. “After that mistake, I hit my spots and didn’t make any mistakes again.”

Clark’s start was just his second of the season. Arm injuries cost him the 2005 season, and he threw 10 1/3 innings during the regular season before an injury to right fielder Travis Storrer opened up a roster spot before the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Clark held North Carolina State to a run over eight innings in the ACC championship game, his first start of the year. He threw eight scoreless innings of relief against UNC Asheville in the regional and 3 2/3 strong innings against Oral Roberts.

“The last couple weeks have been great,” Clark said. “There was a little bump in the road there (in the first), but I got through that.”

Clemson coach Jack Leggett decided Clark’s recent success–and the fact that Georgia Tech had not faced him in the six previous meetings between the two clubs this season–made him a great candidate for Friday’s start. Leggett told reporters he felt clam during the rocky first inning, and Clark rewarded that confidence by retiring 12 of the 14 batters he faced from the third through the sixth inning.

“Clark mixed his pitches well,” Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. “He had a good changeup and he did a better job of locating his changeup and locating his fastball after the first. He did that really well.”

Now, Clemson is through to the winner’s bracket and has the three pitchers who started its weekend series all in reserve.

“We didn’t back door this thing, Sean was our best guy,” O’Sullivan said. “But it’s nice to have those guys left.”

— WK

A Slugfest After All
Friday, June 16, 4:00 p.m.

For seven innings, it looked like no slugfest would break out after all. But in the eighth inning, Clemson finally got to Lee Hyde . . . and Ben Rulon . . . and Ryan Turner . . . and Jared Hyatt . . . and Tim Ladd. It took five Georgia Tech pitchers to get three outs in the bottom of the eighth, and Clemson racked up eight runs in the interim to take an 8-4 victory in the CWS opener. Should be an interesting post-mortem, and now on to the highlight of the day, Cal State Fullerton and Wes Roemer versus North Carolina and Andrew Miller.

Get Ready For A Slugfest
Friday, June 16, 1:16 p.m.

It’s still just 3-0 Georgia Tech in the first inning, but all signs point to a very high-scoring affair in the works. There is a very stiff wind blowing out to left-center field acting like a jetstream, and we saw it help turn Wally Crancer’s first-inning fly ball to center into a double. Jeff Kindel followed with a long home run over the batter’s eye in center field, and the wind probably helped carry that one as well. Of course, these are two very potent offenses to begin with, so it’s not like they really need the extra help.


Ready To Go
Friday, June 16, 12:34 p.m.

We’re about a half hour away from first pitch here at the 2006 CWS, and Will and I have fueled ourselves up with barbecue sandwiches, so we’re ready to get this thing started. All through the CWS, we will be making our picks for the games at the start of each day. Here are today’s picks:

Will is taking Clemson in the first game, and I am banking on Georgia Tech to bash its way past the relatively inexperienced Sean Clark. I also think all those lefthanded Tigers bats will have their hands full with Lee Hyde.

In the nightcap (assuming the weather holds out and we can get it in – there are thunderstorms in the forecast), Will is going with Cal State Fullerton, while I’m going with my gut and taking North Carolina, even though my head tells me the Titans will bunt and hit-and-run and do all the little things to drive UNC crazy. But I can’t go against the Player of the Year on the mound and those red-hot Carolina bats.

Will (0-0): Clemson, Cal State Fullerton
Aaron (0-0): Georgia Tech, North Carolina


Ha Ha Horton
Thursday, June 15, 5:42 p.m.

George Horton succeeded Augie Garrido as Cal State Fullerton coach in 1997 and beat his mentor for the College World Series title in 2004. Two years later, with Garrido’s Texas team absent from the CWS for the first time in five years, Horton looked to succeed Garrido as the CWS press conference’s resident funny man.

He blasted out a fair share of quotable, comical quips on a variety of subjects. Following a question about his team’s use of sports psychologist Ken Ravizza, Horton joked, “It’s because I’m crazy,” before starting to shake violently.

Horton’s best line came when asked about his team’s chances in a bracket with three ACC teams.

“I told my team that I have my Zesto’s milkshakes mapped out for 10 days,” Horton said, “and I’d be upset if the last one is boysenberry.”


Mound Men
Thursday, June 15, 5:29 p.m.

The eight coaches announced their opening game starters today. Here are the matchups:

Sr. RHP Sean Clark (Clemson) vs. Jr. LHP Lee Hyde (Georgia Tech)

These teams have played six times already, splitting six games. Clemson coach Jack Leggett chose Clark, a senior who is 2-0, 1.80 in 30 innings because he’s one of the few arms Georgia Tech hasn’t seen this season. Clark earned wins in the chamionship of the ACC tournament and the opener of the Clemson Regional before throwing 3 2/3 strong innings of relief against Oral Roberts in the super-regional.

Hyde allowed two runs on seven hits over eight innings in Tech’s 3-2 loss to Clemson in the ACC tournament. He also has thrown well in two NCAA tournament starts and gets the call over normal Friday starter Blake Wood because his lefthandedness matches up better against a left-leaning Clemson lineup.

Jr. LHP Andrew Miller (North Carolina) vs. So. RHP Wes Roemer (Cal State Fullerton)

No surprises here. Two first-team All-America aces mano a mano. So expect a 12-11 game, right?

Jr. RHP Brooks Brown (Georgia) vs. Sr. RHP Eddie Degerman (Rice)

Brown usurps the top starter duty from senior lefty Mickey Westphal, who gave up the first three of South Carolina’s five consecutive homers in Georgia’s 11-5 super-regional loss. “Mickey, after he cut that Easton (bats) commercial, if anyone can regroup from that, he can,” Georgia coach Dave Perno said.

Degerman was an obvious choice for coach Wayne Graham, but the coach cast little light on when Joe Savery might pitch. The lefty missed nearly two months with shoulder tendinitis during the regular season before coming back just before the conference tournament. He started Rice’s regional clincher against Baylor but did not pitch in last week’s super-regional. Graham said Savery would be evaluated again Friday, and the team would make a decision on his availability at that point.

Jr. LHP Scott Maine (Miami) vs. Jr. RHP Dallas Buck (Oregon State)

Jonah Nickerson started Oregon State’s CWS opener last year because Buck told the staff he needed an extra day of rest. He threw a bullpen session at Rosenblatt Stadium on Thursday and was expected to make the Saturday start.


Getting There
Thursday, June 15, 9:53 a.m.

I hold layovers longer than an hour in about the same regard as people who say they can’t enjoy college baseball because of the aluminum bats. While dealing with that, Cincinnati’s airport frustrates me for two more reasons: It’s in Northern Kentucky, so not only isn’t in Cincy, it’s not even Ohio. Liars. The other one is because like many airports, there’s wireless Internet access, but it’s restricted to those who want to pay a silly fee. You’re already pillaging my wallet for food and beverages, please make one concession. This is why we love Hartford’s Bradley International Airport: free wireless.

At the risk of sounding like Peter King, that’s enough about my travel travails. Here’s what I’m ready to see on my third fortnight in Omaha:

• Georgia center fielder Joey Side making an unreal diving catch, then blasting yet another three-run homer.

• A good show at the Sokol. The schedule at this music venue never gibes with mine, but here’s to hoping.

• Jemile Weeks run. Miami’s second baseman is fast, and he’s just fun to watch.

• A Whiskey Filet, cooked medium, making its way to my table at the Drover. Omaha’s all about the beef (and the AFL’s Beef, for that matter).

• North Carolina reliever Jonathan Hovis bringing his nation’s leading 1.28 ERA to the mound. Too bad he won’t come on to Jay-Z’s Public Service Announcement (“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ho-Va”) here.

• Primates, and lots of them, at the Henry Doorly Zoo. I’m a sucker for a zoo, and this is one of the best around.

• Clemson center fielder Brad Chalk doing things that often go without notice. Dude can flat bunt. But what I like more is the freaking fire hose he has for a left arm. Please let someone try to take an extra base on him. Please.

• Steve Pivovar and Mitch Sherman of the Omaha World Herald. Piv knows more about the CWS and its history than I can ever aspire to find out. Mitch owes me a beer. These guys and the entire OWH staff crank out about eight pages of CWS coverage everyday, so check their Web site if you can’t get enough.

• Oregon State closer Kevin Gunderson on the dais. The man is a quote machine. After the Beavers were eliminated in two games last year, he reminded us all that “It’s a sad day when the Beavers have to depart.” Then he guaranteed a sequel. Gundy and Oregon State delivered, and I’ve got a feeling “Bonkers For Beavers: The Return” will prove much better than the original.

• Eddie Degerman throwing that nose-to-toes curveball. I’ve watch the Rice senior on televsion, but something tells me seeing that thing in person is completely different.

• Friends from all over. Those whom I’ve known forever, those I’ve met in Omaha the last two years, and those I’ll meet these next 16 days. College buddy Brian Murphy wins the Carmen Sandiego award for the most intriguing travel. He’s making the 1,229-mile drive from Boise, Idaho, where he’s a columnist with the Idaho Statesman. He’s not bringing any blue turf, and no, I didn’t have any lamer jokes than that, aside from one that might have to do with potatoes.
• Georgia Tech center fielder Danny Payne enjoying himself. He was the best hitter on the nation’s best offense until he suffered a concussion, cracked ribs and a dislocated shoulder in a late April outfield collision with Steven Blackwood. Payne deserves this trip, and it stinks that he won’t get to play.

• A giant hot fudge shake from Zesto’s. I am upset, however, that I found out Zesto’s nearly doubles its prices for the CWS. It’s capitalism, of which I’m a fan. But nearly $5 for a milkshake? What was Vincent Vega’s line from Pulp Fiction? I can’t print that here.

• Senior Dustin Miller pitching for Cal State Fullerton. Miller was a freshman All-American and helped lead the Titans to Omaha in 2003. Arm troubles killed his 2004 and 2005 seasons, and the guy had to sit home in ’04 and watch his teammates win it all on television. That’s not super.

• A bunch of fans grilling varied meats in the parking lot. The smells permeate the air around Rosenblatt, wafting into the press box and making this writer jealous for an invitation to a pregame tailgate.


Berken Cleared To Play
Thursday, June 15, 11:31 a.m.

Clemson righthander Jason Berken left last Friday’s super-regional game against Oral Roberts in the second inning after colliding with Kevin Minissale while covering first base. Berken suffered a broken nose and a slight concussion, but he has been cleared to pitch this weekend and figures to start tomorrow’s CWS opener against Georgia Tech.


Omaha Loves You
Wednesday, June 14, 5:09 p.m.

A sign outside the media hotel says, “Welcome CWS Fans! Omaha loves you.” And really, it’s true. That’s why the College World Series and Omaha are such a perfect fit for each other. The first three people I talked to since arriving in Omaha this morning couldn’t have been any friendlier. First a jovial man at an Omaha welcome kiosk at the airport chatted me up for a few minutes about the CWS and good places to eat. Then I talked with an airport shuttle bus driver who was looking forward to getting to some games, and the clerk at the hotel’s front desk was just as enthusiastic. Everyone in this town gets into the spirit of the College World Series, and it’s a big reason this event is so special.


Dodson’s Done

Wednesday, June 14, 2:40 p.m.

Georgia coach Dave Perno suspended freshman righthander Stephen Dodson for the remainder of the season for a violation of team rules. Dodson will not travel with the team to the College World Series.

Dodson went 1-0, 4.66 in 48 innings this season and served up the second two of South Carolina’s record-tying five consecutive home runs in Georgia’s 11-5 loss in the first game of its super-regional.

Georgia opens the College World Series against Rice at 2 p.m. ET Saturday.


This Is A Call
Tuesday, June 13, 3:54 p.m.

I went running Tuesday, a rare off day during this time of year. As I crossed Nebraska Ave., my randomized iPod pumped these words through the headphones: “Omaha, somewhere in middle America . . .”

Maybe that’s a silly coincidence. But when I recrossed Nebraska on my way back, “Wish You Were Here” came through the speakers. Georgraphy and timing always have had a way of messing with me. I’m taking this as Omaha calling me to her. I’ll be there Thursday.