Heels head to Omaha having already exceeded expectations
Posted June 16, 2011
Dozens of Tar Heel fans gathered around the baseball team bus before it departed for another College World Series.
As the players signed autographs, the joy was obvious as even they admitted this latest trip to Omaha, Ne. is one they are surprised to take.
“It’s something I kind of expected my freshman year with all the talent on that team,” said junior catcher Jacob Stallings. “This year was a little less expected.” For that reason, the veteran Heels say this CWS is even more special.
“People said the whole year, ‘The Tar Heels aren’t going to be any good. They’re not going to make it to Omaha,’” added pitcher Greg Holt.
“That probably helped us,” said coach Mike Fox of the lowered expectations.
But two months ago, the team was at a low point. After being swept by NC State, UNC dropped its next two ACC games at home to Miami.
“I was just kind of sitting there, like, are we really this good?” Stallings wondered.
The attitude of the team changed with its sweep of No. 1 ranked Virginia to finish the regular season. “Then we were like, you know what, we’ve got a really, really good chance of getting back to Omaha,” said Holt.
UNC plays in the first CWS game Saturday at 2 p.m. against Vanderbilt. Former president George W. Bush will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
This is Carolina’s fifth College World Series in six years. The Heels not only want to win for themselves but for the players who came before them. “I talked to [former players Dustin] Ackley, Garrett Gore and [Mike Cavisini], and they were like, ‘This is the year that you guys need to go out there and win it.’ We’ve been there enough times. Now, it’s time to finally get the job done,” Holt said.
“But hopefully, the Missouri River doesn’t flood,” he added. Forecasts of possible flooding in downtown Omaha could make for an unpleasant week for teams and fans.
But for the players who have been to the CWS before, they offer simple advice. “Buy as much stuff as you can,” Stallings said. “That’s something I regretted from last time. I didn’t get enough memorabilia.”
Now, UNC is hoping to return to Chapel Hill with the ultimate souvenir: that elusive College World Series trophy.