The College World Series.
For die-hard college baseball fans, this is Christmas morning, but even better: it’s two weeks filled with the best eight college baseball teams in the country competing for the title of champions. People from all over make the pilgrimage to Omaha, Nebraska every year to witness the “greatest show on dirt”, and this year’s tournament certainly hasn’t disappointed. From shocking upsets to unexpected domination, the 2016 College World Series is definitely one for the history books.
“In baseball, you don’t know nothing.” – Yogi Berra
This quote perfectly encompasses what we’ve seen unfold in college baseball this year, starting during the super regionals. With five SEC teams securing a spot in the supers, four of which being national seeds, it seemed like the conference was unstoppable in their pursuit to Omaha. However, one by one, the seemingly unbeatable teams were getting knocked off left and right. The Aggie’s bubbles, Mississippi State’s cowbells, and even LSU’s rally opossum were not enough to carry them to the CWS. Ultimately, only one SEC team would punch their ticket to Omaha: the Florida Gators.
I was lucky enough to arrive in Omaha just in time for Opening Day: a day for fans and spectators to watch their favorite team practice, get an autograph (or twenty), and end with a ceremony to celebrate the final eight teams and their accomplishments (Side note: this year’s ceremony also included a special performance by X Ambassadors! I fangirled a little bit
okay actually a lot). There was an incredible amount of fan support in TD Ameritrade throughout the day, including waiting for hours in mile-long lines for autographs, and watching the boys practice despite the blistering heat. I spent most of this time going back and forth on the concourse to capture pictures of the players and talk with fans. As I was walking around and taking in the atmosphere, the Coastal Carolina boys walked in (to a roaring applause from Coastal fans) to sit at the autograph table. They all looked incredibly relaxed and were joking around with each other casually. When I started snapping their pictures, they were more than happy to pose for me (as you can clearly see below). Their cheerful and light-hearted manner was a different vibe I witnessed than most other teams. They seemed to be truly enjoying the moment. Comparing this observation to the Florida boys, who came into this tournament as the number one overall seed and the only representation of the SEC, there was bound to be much more pressure on their performance. When it finally came down to play, the Gators went 0-2 and were the second to be eliminated, which came as a shock to many. While some believe that this was due to overhype of the SEC, I believe that it was mostly due to the amount of pressure they had coming into the tournament.
“They seemed to not feel any pressure – they just came to play the game of baseball (about Coastal Carolina).”
The “carefree” approach has boded extremely well for the Chanticleers throughout their CWS journey. Despite losing to TCU in their second game, they advanced from the loser’s bracket and are now playing for the championship against the Arizona Wildcats (a team who was expected to finish 9th in the PAC-12). So what’s the deal? Is it luck? Or is it just the year of the underdog? Whatever you think, there is no denying that this year’s tournament has been an absolute thrill ride. For the 67th year, we are about to witness the “greatest show on dirt”.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow to ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and catch the first game of the championship series!
Also let me know who YOU think is going to win! You can tweet me (@itsbethpride) or leave a comment below!