Contenders take their cuts
Each of the eight teams contending for the College World Series championship took batting practice Friday in Omaha, no doubt working off some nervous energy before taking part in college baseball's premier event. Teams also met with the media. Take a look at the best of both endeavors from each squad.
Louisville will open its quest for the CWS title on Saturday night in the late game against Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. ET. "Seems like a lot of similarities in our lineups," Louisville head coach Dan McConnell said of his Cardinals and Vanderbilt's Commodores. "I think when you look at Vanderbilt and Louisville, I think the balance is there."
Vanderbilt is used to facing Louisville in the postseason. When the two teams meet on Saturday night, it'll be the fourth time they've clashed in the past six NCAA tournaments. "I think when you're looking at Louisville, and we've played them a bunch during the past five or six years, there's some similarities in pitching staffs for sure," Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. "Always strong-bodied kids who throw the ball well that know how to execute pitches. From an offensive standpoint, very athletic, can put pressure on you by the way they run the bases, the way they steal the bases, and their kids have a good skill set."
UC IRVINE ANTEATERS
Since mid-May, the Anteaters have been the very definition of streaky, losing eight of their last nine regular-season games, then winning five of its six postseason contests. They'll face Texas in Saturday's early game at 3 p.m. ET. "We've had an interesting road to get here," head coach Mike Gillespie said. "It's been exciting. We feel like we're a team that, like I suppose most coaches would feel, if we pitch it pretty good and we catch it, then we've got a chance."
Texas head coach Augie Garrido, he of the five national titles, knows what it takes to get to Omaha. In a word -- sacrifice. "I think our story starts with the end of last season and when Mark Payton, our senior center fielder, and Nate Thornhill, the senior pitcher, decided to forego their opportunity for another year in professional baseball for the sake of the team. All of the teams in this tournament have found the oneness that it takes to be able to execute and trust that their teammates will depend on each other to get the job done, or they wouldn't be here. But Mark and Nate are the ones that set the tone."
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
Texas Tech faces TCU in Sunday's first game at 3 p.m. ET. Red Raiders head coach Tim Tadlock knows the importance of pitching, not only in Sunday's game but throughout the entirety of the CWS. "At this point in the year, whoever you face, they're going to have some pitching," Tadlock said. "So it all really comes back to that bump out there in the middle of the field."
TCU HORNED FROGS
TCU is one of three teams from Texas competing in Omaha this year. Two of those square off early Sunday when Texas Tech and TCU clash. "There's so many good players and so many good teams [in Texas], whether it be the big schools like Tech and Texas and A&M; Dallas Baptist is phenomenally talented, will probably have a top-15 team next year," TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "There's so many good players, and it eventually showed itself on the field."
It took Ole Miss five Super Regionals to reach Omaha. Now that the Rebels are here, head coach Mike Bianco knows that in big TD Ameritrade Park, defense is key. What's more, he thinks his team matches up well.
"It's not the best defensive club we've ever had, but we're solid," he said. "We're solid in the infield. Will Allen has had a tremendous year behind the plate for us. But it might be the best defensive outfield, which is more --
I think will play more -- make the difference in this park."
Like Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, Virginia skipper Brian O'Connor believes in his defense. The two squads will meet in Sunday's late game at 8 p.m. ET. Our defense was an area that I thought we needed to improve from last year, and we did," O'Connor said. "I think we have a really skilled infield defense, and we have three outfielders that can run and go get it and cover some territory."