May 30, 2007
Tucson, AZ (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Five large letters dot the underside of the brim of Colt Sedbrook's hat: O-M-A-H-A.
The letters have been there since the UA second baseman first stepped foot on campus last season, but the Nebraskan city that hosts the College World Series each year has been on his mind much longer than that.
As a kid, starting when he was 9, Sedbrook made the trip to Omaha each year to watch the College World Series. He continued the tradition up until his senior year of high school in 2004, where he witnessed Arizona's most recent trip to the annual event.
"I've seen all the players, I've seen who's been there and I want to play there," Sedbrook said before practice Monday. "It's a team goal, of course, and every time I look at (the letters on his hat), it's just like, 'You're playing to get to Omaha.'"
That quest will start Friday in Kansas, where Sedbrook and the rest of his teammates are the No. 2 seed of a regional hosted by Wichita State facing third-seeded Oral Roberts (40-15, 19-1 Mid-Continent Conference) at 1 p.m.
First-seeded Wichita State plays No. 4 seed New Orleans, the Sun Belt Conference champions, later that night at 5.
"This whole season has big a big, long marathon, and now we're down to the sprint right here," said Pacific 10 Conference Pitcher of the Year Preston Guilmet. "We've got a couple more weekends, and if we do it right, we'll be in the Midwest in the third week of June (during the CWS)."
"I like being in the postseason," added UA head coach Andy Lopez. "Everybody gets a chance now. You play well, you keep rolling on."
After a year away, No. 17 Arizona (40-15, 15-9 Pacific 10 Conference) returns to the NCAA tournament with 26 underclassmen on a roster that features just three players who have postseason experience -- seniors Brad Mills and Bill Rhinehart, and junior David Coulon.
Both Mills, a pitcher, and Rhinehart, an outfielder, were on the 2004 team that Sedbrook saw advance to Omaha. Coulon joined them as a freshman pitcher on the 2005 team that lost to defending national champion Cal State Fullerton in regional play.
"It's just different in the fact that there's no next weekend, there's no if we stub our toe, we can get back on it," Mills said of postseason play. "It's not a thing where you can all of a sudden wake up in the fifth or sixth inning and be like 'OK, now we've got to get on it.' The first inning is just as important as the ninth inning in postseason."
Still, Mills felt the inexperience wasn't a big disadvantage.
"I don't really think that just because they're young and haven't played there, they're not going to know how to play the game of baseball," he said.
Added sophomore third baseman Brad Glenn, who hit .355 during the season with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs: "I guess some people could consider us young for postseason play, but it's just the same game as always, you've just got to go out and play the way we play."
Lopez said his practices, which feature silent drills to get his players used to playing without verbal communication in loud environments, have helped to prepare his youthful roster.
"We talk about having toughness and poise everyday of a season," Lopez said, "and now they have an opportunity to show it."
And now, he's also got himself an anxious bunch.
"It's like 'When are we leaving? When are we gonna go?'" Sedbrook said. "We want to get there. Waiting around to play -- it's a thing where you just want to play now."
(C) 2007 Arizona Daily Wildcat via CSTV U-WIRE