For 2 Washington players, childhood CWS talk becomes reality
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — It was a long time ago, but Washington teammates Joe DeMers and Willie MacIver once talked about playing together in the College World Series.
Here they are.
In 2010, the two played in a youth baseball tournament held in Omaha at the same time as the CWS. While here, their team attended some games at Rosenblatt Stadium.
“I remember the conversation: ‘Man, it would be cool to play here. It would be an unbelievable experience,’” MacIver said. “It’s a dream come true. This is why you play college baseball, to get on a stage like this and see this atmosphere, which I’m sure is going to be amazing. It’s almost like you’re playing a big-league game.”
With DeMers on the mound and MacIver at third base, the Huskies open their first CWS against Mississippi State on Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Park. It was a long road to get here. Washington had to go across the country to Conway, South Carolina, for its regional and played a three-game super regional at Cal State Fullerton.
“I don’t think too many people sitting in the audience today picked us to be here from the beginning of the season to even through the postseason,” Huskies coach Lindsay Meggs said.
As first-timers, the trick is to find a balance between soaking in the atmosphere surrounding the event and taking care of business on the field.
“We as a staff have to find a way to reel our guys in and before they get on the bus to head over here to understand what the game plan is, to understand how we need to pitch people and what the offensive plan is going to be,” Meggs said. “If we don’t have that nailed down until we get off the bus and walk in the ballpark and experience all these things for the first time, I think we’re going to be in trouble.”
MacIver said he likes Washington’s chances with DeMers pitching. MacIver recalled playing on an 8-year-old team with DeMers, and his buddy didn’t allow a single base runner all season.
“He is a ferocious competitor on the mound and he’ll do whatever it takes to get outs,” MacIver said. “He’s got that mentality, like ‘I’m better than you, I’m going to beat you.’ ”
North Carolina’s Gianluca Dalatri (2-2, 3.80 ERA) vs. vs. Oregon State’s Luke Heimlich (16-1, 2.32).
Washington’s DeMers (7-3, 2.56) vs. Mississippi State’s Ethan Small (5-3, 3.11).
Texas’s Nolan Kingham (8-4, 4.34 ERA) vs. Arkansas’ Blaine Knight (12-0, 2.84).
Florida’s Brady Singer (12-1, 2.30) vs. Texas Tech’s Dylan Dusek (3-0, 2.03).
Defending national champion Florida hopes to have JJ Schwarz available Sunday. Schwarz has been out with a broken right hand since May 18. Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said Schwarz took batting practice Tuesday and did fine.
“Whether he’s going to be able to play first or catch I’m not quite sure yet,” he said. “Obviously, it’s still day-to-day.”
Schwarz, the Oakland Athletics’ eighth-round draft pick, is batting .325 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs.
MENTOR VS. MENTEE POSSIBLE
An Oregon State-Mississippi State matchup could happen Monday, meaning Beavers coach Pat Casey would face off against his old pitching coach, Bulldogs interim head coach Gary Henderson. Henderson grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and was on Oregon State’s staff from 1999-2002.
“We spent one miserable year together,” Henderson said, “and then we spent (three) years getting better and putting something in place that he has been able to be proud of and build on. In a real small way, I feel a piece of that. Proud of every place I have ever coached... There’s always a part of me that will always be an Oregonian, and really proud of what Case has been able to do.”
Texas is back in the CWS the same season the Longhorns’ former coach and college baseball ambassador Augie Garrido died. Garrido was the NCAA all-time coaching wins leader until Florida State’s Mike Martin passed him last month.
“He was always very much like a grandfather, I think, to all of us,” Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “A lot of wisdom there. He’s very good to all of us, did so much for the game of baseball.”
COVERING SOME GROUND
North Carolina coach Mike Fox knows TD Ameritrade Park’s prodigious dimensions could put stress on outfielders Ashton McGee, Brandon Riley and Cody Roberts.
“They all three can run a little bit, and you’re going to need that out here probably,” Fox said. “The ballpark is what it is, and it’s going to be interesting certainly how it plays. Outfield play is extremely important here ... and where you play your outfielders and how deep and how shallow is going to be a factor.”
HARKENING TO SWC DAYS
The Arkansas-Texas game Sunday will be a throwback to the days when the schools were in the old Southwest Conference. The teams played twice at Arkansas in the regular season, with the Razorbacks winning 13-4 and 7-5.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said longtime fans still might consider Texas the biggest rival. The Razorbacks jumped to the Southeastern Conference in 1991, and the SWC folded in 1996.
“I don’t see them as our rival, obviously,” Van Horn said. “But it’s just a storied program, and they beat up on a lot of people back in the Southwest Conference days. And so a lot of people like beating Texas back then.”
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