For Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin, the College World Series transforms Omaha into Heaven on earth.
The journey for any college team is long and difficult. Long hours of batting practice, often in inclement weather more suitable for football than baseball. Long hours of honing fundamentals, building cohesion, blending new players into the program.
“You realize how much hard work it took to get there,’’ Corbin said before the Commodores flew to Omaha where they will play Louisville in their first game Saturday.
“Then there (were) eight. We’re one of eight.’’
Saturday starter Tyler Beede visited Omaha as a member of an age group Team USA team last summer. He took pictures, soaked it all in even though they were playing before far less fans than the sold-out crowd he will see Saturday.
“It will be a special place for us,’’ Beede said.
“It’s the top of the bucket list from a coaching standpoint, as well as from a family standpoint,’’ Corbin noted. “It’s an amazing festival.’’
Corbin took the Commodores to the CWS in 2011. It was his first visit after suffering a number of previous roadblocks with CWS worthy teams. They lost their first two games then, a lesson he doesn’t want to repeat.
Louisville is making its first back-to-back CWS appearance under Coach Dan McDonnell. This is a team that lost a lot of key players and was thrust into what was considered a rebuilding season. They lost four of their first dozen games. The lost to Indiana three times during the season, the Citadel, Western Michigan and Kentucky twice. Not exactly punching a ticket to Omaha.
Ah, but they had eight players taken in June’s Major League Draft. They were one of six teams that could make that claim. They stacked a record 6,007 fans into Jim Patterson Stadium for the Super Regional title game against Kennesaw State. Louisville AD Tom Jurich is planning an expansion of the facility.
The Cardinals also defeated Vanderbilt, 11-7, at the Hawk last month.
So the Cardinals will be anything but a pushover in Omaha. With eight teams in the double elimination tournament, Vanderbilt and Virginia are picked as co-favorites in Las Vegas betting parlors.
Corbin likes his chances in the format.
“I think we can play with anyone,’’ he said. “I think we’re set up good for this tournament. We have a lot of good pitchers. I like everything about it.
“I love our starting pitchers. If you’re successful and win, you can be riding those pitchers for a long period of time. It gives them time to recover. I also like the ability to set up your pitching the way you want.’’
The Commodores pitching team is deep enough to endure a double elimination format. Hayden Stone is a freshman that played at Columbia Central. He slammed the door on Stanford in the Super Regional title game, going six innings and giving up only three hits against 24 batters.
They will need similar outings to win college baseball’s championship. Corbin is confident they will be ready. He was a quick study when they made their initial appearance at the 2011 CWS.
“I learned if you lose two games, you’re out,’’ Corbin deadpanned. “We don’t want to do that again.’’
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.