For the first time in 34 years, the College World Series Finals feature a rematch. And there was plenty of anticipation around Rosenblatt Stadium for the North Carolina vs. Oregon State battle.
It's been interesting all throughout the CWS to see the mixture of fans from each team, along with lots of other teams that didn't even make it to Omaha. So today it was a bit of a shift to see so many folks clad in gear pledging their allegiances to either the Heels or Beavers.
But obviously, the final weekend of the CWS has an influx of fans from both sides who couldn't make it out to the start of the series yet still wanted to support their school. And what better way to get a sense of how cool the rematch factor is than by talking to some of the more intense fans from both sides. Especially if you're holding a video camera.
The pitching matchup allowed us to have a little language-related fun that we enjoy largely thanks to our friend Aaron Fitt, Baseball America's college guru who we mentioned a few days ago.
Fitt has always had a habit of translating names from Spanish to English if they are easily translatable (Classic examples: Antonio Banderas becomes Tony Flags and Jose Mesa becomes Joe Table). Today's matchup allowed us to do one in each direction, as North Carolina freshman starter Alex White became Alejandro Blanco and Oregon State starter Jorge Reyes became George Kings.
Ta da! (And yes, before you ask, we know we are idiots.)
What, no love for Wally?
The most indelible moment from last year's College World Series Finals was the fielding mishap involving UNC second baseman Bryan Steed and first basemen (though catcher by trade) Tim Federowicz. Well, the fielding didn't get much better for the Tar Heels this time around.
Already trailing 6-3 in the seventh inning, UNC reliever Tyler Trice fielded a would-be sacrifice bunt and looked back the runner at second before throwing to first too late to get Chris Hopkins. On the next play, OSU's Joey Wong (who shares a name with a female Taiwanese film star) bunted the ball right to Trice, who sailed his throw into right field allowing two runs to score to make it 8-3.
Trice walked the next batter, and then his night was done. With the Tar Heels' bats back in the slumber mode that plagued them before their games against Rice, those were two runs UNC couldn't afford to give up.
You must take the 'A' Train, to get to Rosenblatt Stadium up in Omaha.
By the time the carnage was complete, Oregon State had handed UNC an 11-4 thumping to kick off the series.
Of course, there were some random bits of good news for North Carolina. First, they tied a CWS record (and set a CWS Finals record) with five double plays in the game. Second, they seem to play better when facing elimination, so they can always hope to bounce back tomorrow.
But that can't compare with the feeling the Beavers have: They're only 27 outs away from repeating as national champions.