The New Normal
I stood in my living room last night and watched the final out of the 2011 College World Series. When I saw Matt Price point to the sky and Jackie Bradley, Jr. draw a bead on the final out of the season, I clapped my hands a couple of times and gave a little fist pump. After a hug for the wife I sat back down and watched the celebration on the field.
This was in stark contrast to last year when Scott Wingo scored the game-winner against UCLA and I went temporarily insane.
As I watched ESPN I noticed something – like at my house, the celebration seemed slightly subdued. There was a dogpile, and plenty of hugs and high-fives to go around. Ray Tanner was obviously emotional in his interview, but in a different way than last year. I was trying to pin down why this was the case, then it hit me.
You know the old saying, “act like you’ve been there before”?
Well, we’ve been there before.
Don’t get me wrong, this year’s title isn’t any less satisfying or enjoyable. Quite the contrary. This run through the NCAA tournament was about as fun as any sporting event I’ve seen – full of storylines, drama and huge plays. And as I tweeted last night, this team is as likable as any I’ve ever followed.
I think the thing is, for Carolina baseball, this is the new normal. We have the best baseball program in the country, and I don’t think anyone can dispute that at the moment. Making it to the CWS is no longer the goal. Winning the whole darn thing is.
I like the new normal.
So, moving on…
As Tbone wrote yesterday, there were simply too many storylines to try to write a blog post. But I’m going to give it a try, in Tusings-style. My random thoughts over the last couple of days include:
- People kept talking about how cool it would be to win the last at Rosenblatt and the first at TDAP. And it is cool. Very cool.
- This year’s numbers – 10-0 in the NCAA Tournament; 16 straight tournament wins (NCAA record); 11 straight CWS wins (NCAA record). 16 and 11 won’t be broken any time soon.
- Pitching – USC gave up five earned runs in 51 innings pitched in the CWS for an ERA of 0.88. We gave up four runs in the first inning of the first game against Texas A&M, then six runs in 50 innings after that. Crazy.
- Maybe Ray Tanner isn’t quite in the company of Dedeaux, Garrido and Bertman just yet, but I would expect a statue of him at Ray Tanner Field at Carolina Stadium in the not too distant future. (Oh yeah, and at least name the field after him.)
- Scott Wingo is not the best baseball player in South Carolina history, but he might turn out to be the most memorable. His play on Monday night to save the game is as good as you will ever see with that much on the line. We will miss everything about that guy.
- More Wingo – I looked it up, and the CWS MOP batted .230 as a Freshman, .196 as a Sophomore, and .247 as a Junior. I don’t have his updated batting average after last night, but I think he’s been hovering around .330 recently. Wingo always had the reputation as all glove, no stick. He changed that dramatically this year and has given himself a great opportunity to play at the next level.
- Christian Walker is a badass, period. And if anyone knows what Tanner meant when he said Walker’s wrist looked like a “stack of pancakes”, please fill me in. I cannot for the life of me form an image that results in Walker playing last night.
- I wrote about Michael Roth last week, and he simply added to his legendary status since then. I truly believe he deserved the CWS MOP as much as Wingo. (Throw Matt Price in that mix as well.)
- Matt Price, what a clutch, clutch pitcher. He threw 95 pitches on Friday, 16 on Monday, and 15 last night on the biggest stage in college baseball, and gave up nada. He had us worried a few times, but as Roth said about him, “I think he gets into trouble just so he can pitch out of it.”
- Do you remember that John Taylor was our closer coming into the 2010 season? He was lit up early and blew a couple of saves, and Matt Price became the man. But this year? A million appearances with an ERA just barely north of one. We probably wouldn’t have made it this far without Every Day Johnny.
- Tyler Webb deserves a mention for his performance on Monday. For the better part of two months he was coming out of the pen to face a lefty or two and then was done. His 2 1/3 scoreless on Monday night gave us a chance to win. I hope he can carry that over into a weekend job next year, he certainly has the stuff.
- Robert Beary’s backhanded, short-hop snag of Wingo’s wide throw on Monday night was spectacular and so far underrated.
- Peter Mooney, we hardly knew ye, but it sure was fun while it lasted. I expect him to move on, but he kept up the tradition of great South Carolina shortstops for at least a year.
- ESPN, Dennis Dodd, etc., please quit talking about the bats. Everyone had to play with them.
Now to go order my t-shirt.