OMAHA, Neb. Virginia’s Mike Papi said coach Brian O’Connor’s Omaha-area roots are an intangible that helps the team. O’Connor grew up in neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa, and pitched for Creighton in Omaha.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have a guy like Coach O’Connor as our head coach and be so familiar with this area because with Omaha comes a lot of distractions,” Papi said. “He does a great job with us in letting us know how to keep our focus on the baseball and not to worry about all the outside things that are happening, and just to play the Virginia way that we’ve been playing all season.”
O’Connor has tried to downplay his local ties, the stories of his attending the CWS as a child and pitching in the CWS in 1991.
“I know he has a lot of pride and he loves this town,” Papi said. “You see him out there on the (Road To Omaha) statue and those guys showing all the passion they have for this game and this place.” (O’Connor’s likeness was used for the statue.)
• Virginia started the finals with a chance to set the CWS record for lowest ERA. The Cavaliers allowed two earned runs in their first 33 innings in Omaha for a 0.55 ERA. The record, for teams playing a minimum of four games, is 0.60 by California over five games in 1957.
• The Cavaliers have a chance to win their first CWS championship. Virginia has won national titles in men’s soccer (6), men’s lacrosse (5), women’s lacrosse (3), women’s cross country (2), women’s rowing (2), men’s tennis (1) and men’s boxing (1).
Vandy’s players touted Campbell as 3B replacement
Vandy’s sub hero: Vanderbilt’s team leaders had no trouble making a recommendation when coach Tim Corbin came to them to discuss who should play third base after Xavier Turner was ruled ineligible for violating NCAA rules.
Tyler Campbell was an easy choice.
“When Corb came up to us and asked us who deserves a role at third base, our leadership group came together and said Tyler Campbell deserves it just because of the way he practices and the way he’s been all year,” Vince Conde said. “We trusted him and we knew he could do it. It shows these last two games, what he’s done and how big he’s been for us so far.”
Campbell, who had appeared in 14 games before the College World Series, has had three of his five hits this season in Omaha.
His biggest was his bases-loaded infield single in the 10th inning Saturday to give Vanderbilt a 4-3 win over Texas that sent the Commodores to the finals. Campbell used his glove to start a 5-4-3 double play that got Vanderbilt out of a bases-loaded situation against the Longhorns.
“Coach always reminds us that at some point in the season somebody that hasn’t necessarily played as much as they would have liked would get a chance to make a difference,” second baseman Dansby Swanson said. “He took that to heart and you could tell by his preparation every day, and the way he’s come out there, and we just had full confidence in him.”
• Vanderbilt is playing for its first national championship in a men’s sport. The only national title in school history belongs to the 2007 women’s bowling team.
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