On Campus From Omaha: News On The Eight CWS Teams

Mike Martin (Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

OMAHA—Before the games begin Saturday at the College World Series, the eight teams gathered Friday at TD Ameritrade Park for practice, media day and autograph sessions. Below are news and notes from the eight participant schools.

Cal State Fullerton

The Titans’ .981 fielding percentage ranks eighth in the country and is the best of the teams in Omaha. Part of Fullerton’s strength defensively is its infield of third baseman Taylor Bryant, first baseman Dillon Persinger, shortstop Timmy Richards and second baseman Sahid Valenzuela. Bryant said the Titans infield has in each of the last two years written out a set of standards they hold themselves to, such as making every routine play and not trying to make a second effort after a mistake, such as forcing a throw after not fielding a ball cleanly. During fall ball, a violation is punished by running a diagonal at Goodwin Field. Punishments are relaxed during the season, but the Titans’ infield still prides itself on its defense. “It’s humbling and it’s fun to watch because of all the hard work that we put in day in and day out,” Bryant said. “All the ground balls that we’ve taken since August and in the fall and leading into the season, never taking anything for granted and just going about our work every day the same way and competing with each other and having fun and it pays off in the game.”. . . Rick Vanderhook is making his second trip to Omaha as a head coach. He said the biggest lesson he learned in 2015 when Fullerton went two-and-out was to relax and enjoy the experience, advice he was given by Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri after the Tigers eliminated the Titans. “Paul said afterwards at home plate, he said, ‘Enjoy this,’” Vanderhook said. “I think about it every time when the postseason comes now, to just enjoy. You’re fortunate, and you’re blessed to be there. So enjoy the moment.”


Righthander Tyler Dyson was Florida’s hero in a 3-0 victory in Game 3 of the Gainesville Super Regional against Wake Forest. The freshman threw four scoreless innings following a rain delay that knocked starter Brady Singer out of the game after just two innings. Dyson is 3-0, 3.69 with 43 strikeouts and eight walks in 31.2 innings this season, and has emerged as a critical piece of Florida’s bullpen. He said coach Kevin O’Sullivan has worked with him to improve his mindset this season. “Don’t just overthrow and try to throw it past everybody,” Dyson said. “Getting more contact and trusting the defense behind you. Getting ahead in counts. The key the other day was throwing first-pitch strikes to the hitters and getting ahead.”. . . Florida has lost five straight games in Omaha, all by one run. While the Gators are again built on pitching and defense, they have made some tweaks offensively that O’Sullivan is hopeful will help change their fortunes in TD Ameritrade Park. “We’re a different type of offense this year than we’ve maybe had in years past,” he said. “We’re more aggressive on the base paths and hit and run a bit more.”

Florida State

Mike Martin first led the Seminoles to the CWS in 1980, and is now making his 16th appearance in the event as a head coach. When Oregon State coach Pat Casey heard when Martin first coached a team at the CWS at a press conference with the four head coaches from Pool One, he was astonished and asked the others what they were doing in 1980. Casey had just graduated from college, Cal State Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook had just graduated from high school and Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri was still in high school. . . Martin is known for a typically easygoing demeanor, but showed more emotion in the clubhouse following Florida State’s 19-0 victory against Sam Houston State in super regionals to clinch a spot in Omaha. Martin shouted “We going back!” and slapped a table in the Seminoles’ clubhouse, setting off a celebration. It is Martin’s customary celebration of another trip to Omaha, but because the Seminoles are making their first CWS appearance since 2012, it caught this year’s team off guard. “It was like a dream,” catcher Cal Raleigh said. “Him doing that surprised us all and then it made it even better. We didn’t think he was going to do that; he’s so calm. But that’s why you come to Florida State. You want those moments. I’ll never forget the rest of my life.”

Louisiana State

Freshman righthander Zack Hess has excelled out of the bullpen down the stretch this season, and enters the CWS 7-1, 2.85 with 72 strikeouts and 24 walks in 53.2 innings. He came to LSU as a highly regarded recruit, ranked No. 167 on last year’s BA500, and has made significant strides in his first year of college. He said pitching coach Alan Dunn has worked with him to make a few mechanical adjustments, including lengthening his stride and reducing the head whack in his delivery. “When we first made those changes, I started to lose my command a little bit and it just took a while for my command to get back,” Hess said. “About midseason, it got back where I needed it.” . . . LSU had four players get drafted last year but choose to come back to school, helping the Tigers to put together an experienced, veteran team. Senior lefthander Jared Poche’ was one of the players who postponed the start of his professional career for one more season at LSU, and said getting back to Omaha has been a dream come true. “Since we lost two years ago, that’s been the goal pretty much since that day,” he said. “For us to say it and then actually get it done, it’s rare. I’m just excited and I’m ready to play ball now.”


Brendan McKay, the College Player of the Year, was on Monday drafted fourth overall by the Rays. He said the experience was surreal. “I knew after the second pick, I knew that’s where I was going to go, to Tampa,” he said. “But still, even then when you hear your named called, you sit there, your body’s stuck, you don’t want to move. It’s like a dream that your name’s going to get called, that you’re going to see it happen, you’re almost in shock of it that it’s actually happened.” . . . Right fielder Colin Lyman, left fielder Josh Stowers and center fielder Logan Taylor have made a combined six errors this season and cover a vast amount of ground, an important factor in the spacious TD Ameritrade Park outfield. Taylor said the trio takes a lot of pride in their defense. “We put in work every day working on different types of drills, different situations,” he said. “I’ve been able to play with Colin Lyman for four years out there in right. I don’t even have to talk to him much anymore we just kind of know what each other’s going to do. The more I’ve been able to play with Josh, the better we’ve gotten. It’s great chemistry out there and great players.”

Oregon State

The Beavers go into the CWS with a record of 54-4 and a winning percentage of .931, which would be a Division I record. Shortstop Cadyn Grenier said he sees Oregon State’s gaudy record both as surprising and understandable. “As a baseball person, I look at it and go, ‘This is ridiculous,’” Grenier said. “But as a member of the team, you know the guys in the locker room, you see how hard everyone works every single day and the coaching staff we have and our mentality towards the game, and you go, ‘Why did we lose those four games? We should be 58-0.’”. . . In addition to being without lefthander Luke Heimlich, who did not travel to Omaha, Oregon State is also without outfielder Christian Donahue. Coach Pat Casey said Donahue is suspended for a violation of team rules.

Texas A&M

Coach Rob Childress named righthander Corbin Martin the starter for Texas A&M’s CWS opener Sunday against Louisville. While righthander Brigham Hill (8-3, 3.18) has been the Aggies’ Friday night starter all season, Childress said he likes the matchup better with Martin and believes he has been their hottest pitcher over the last three weeks. Martin, who the Astros drafted Monday with the 56th overall pick, is 7-3, 3.35 and the Aggies have won his past three starts. The decision also makes Hill available out of the bullpen, where he has also had success in his career. “(Hill was willing to do that here in the tournament,” Childress said. “I guess not willing, but eager to do that. And I just feel that gives our pitching staff the best chance to win early in the tournament.” . . . Most of the Aggies are sporting mustaches, which they grew before regionals. Hill said the team came together and decided they needed to do something to help unite the team. “It’s kind of a way for us to have fun, the fans like it and I think we think it brings a little luck to the table, too,” he said. “To get here, you have to have a little bit of luck.” The team has so far been unable to convince Childress to bring back the mustache he had early in his career, which he has since traded in for a goatee. “It was something special, to say the last,” Hill said.

Texas Christian

The Horned Frogs are in the CWS for the fourth straight year, becoming the first team to make the trip to Omaha four straight years since North Carolina did so from 2006-2009. Righthander Mitchell Traver is one of the few players still in the program who was a part of the 2014 team. He said TCU’s streak has been built off that season. “I think that kind of is what set the tone for the remaining couple of trips,” he said. “If you believe you can do it—and I think we always did—but when you actually do it, it makes it that much easier to get there in a way. It just so happens that the age of that team, the guys that we had going have always been able to build off that experience and this year’s no different. We’ve been very fortunate to start it at the point that we did and we’ve just been building off that experience since then.” . . . Slugger Luken Baker has missed the last month of the season because of an arm injury sustained May 12 at Oklahoma. The sophomore is out until September, but still made the trip to Omaha with his teammates. Baker was the Horned Frogs’ cleanup hitter before the injury and was hitting .317/.454/.528 with eight home runs, but coach Jim Schlossnagle said the team has handled the injury well. “If anyone continues to pout about it, it’s probably me,” Schlossnagle said. “Every time I write a lineup, I sure wish he was hitting cleanup.”

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