The Road to Omaha doesn’t begin in the spring; coaches already are driving their players toward the College World Series. It’s the rise-n-grind that players tweet about; it’s the workout pictures that are shared on social media. It’s the day-in, day-out work that coaches and players hope will separate their team in June. Before the first pitch in February, NCAA.com is highlighting teams that may reach the Mecca of college baseball: Omaha.
UC Irvine Anteaters
• 2014: 41-25 (15-9 Big West)
• Head coach: Mike Gillespie (eighth year)
Anteaters’ team website
1. What can fans expect from this squad in 2015? Another year of hard-nosed, driven baseball players. Hard sliding, hard diving, ball-smothering, expert glove-wielding Anteaters, who drive new flat-seamed balls to the walls. Expect strike pounding, string-pulling pitchers, who have batters fly swatting and knees buckling. Expert play calling, creative on-the-field positioning and another year of sideline skits that have all the players chuckling.
2. What is the one thing that this year’s team does best? Execute.
3. Bottom of the ninth, tied game, two outs, winning run on second … which player does this team want to step up to the plate? Too soon to tell but there are several candidates.
4. If this team had one game to win, which pitcher would get the ball? Elliot Surrey.
5. Who are we most likely to see make a “SportsCenter Top 10” play on this squad? Will need to see a few games played first …
6. What does Omaha mean to this team? “To say that Omaha is merely a season goal is a tremendous understatement. Omaha is the spark that ignites our engine every day. It’s not just a city to us, it a mindset. Tasting Omaha only made us hungrier for more. All that we do is aimed at Omaha. The returners realize that the road to Omaha is made one day at a time. So every day, we will do all that we can to get back to the promise land.” — Senior Ryan Cooper
— UC Irvine Assistant Director, Media Relations Fumi Kimura
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