OMAHA — The Cal State Fullerton baseball team understood that the way to the College World Series was long and arduous, a path strewn with obstacles.
It's just that the Titans thought the hard part was on the field.
Instead, Fullerton's greatest difficulty to this point has been transportation.
Yep, just getting there, that's the hard part.
The Titans, who won't play their first game until Saturday, the second day of the College World Series, left Fullerton at 5 a.m. Thursday morning, planning to arrive in Omaha in time for afternoon media appearances and a practice session.
But after boarding for their 6:25 a.m. flight out of Los Angeles International, a tire problem left the plane grounded.
No problem. The team shuttled to another terminal to catch another plane. But this one had a valve problem.
The team shuttled back to the original terminal and finally caught a plane to Phoenix, where the Titans were to connect to Omaha.
But by then they had missed their connection.
As Greg Mannion, the Fullerton left fielder noted, 1 for 3 isn't bad in hitting, but "1 for 3 on airplanes ain't real good."
The team didn't arrive in Omaha until after dinner time. Which was also past media-appearance time, and past practice time.
All of which made the Titans' four-game sweep through the NCAA South Regional in Starkville, Miss., last weekend look like a cinch.
The College World Series opens today at Rosenblatt Stadium, where it has been held the past 38 years.
Arizona State (56-11) and Cal (40-23) play the first game at 2:10 p.m. PST. Wichita State (54-14-1) and Florida (47-17-1) play at 5:10 p.m.
Fullerton (41-16) plays Miami (51-12-1) at 5:10 p.m. Saturday, after a game between Fresno State (56-10) and Stanford (41-22).
The Series, traditionally a straight double-elimination tournament, has been modified this year to allow for a one-game national championship, which is scheduled to be televised by CBS on June 11.
Fullerton may be making its fifth appearance in the College World Series since 1975, but Titan Coach Larry Cochell is connected with the Series in all sorts of interesting ways himself.
Cochell, who took Oral Roberts to the Series in 1978, becomes only the third coach to guide teams from different schools to the Series.
Ron Polk (Georgia Southern and Mississippi State) and Tom Petroff (Northern Colorado and Rider College) are the other two.
He has his own familiarity with Omaha, in addition to coaching Oral Roberts in the Series in 1978.
In 1970 and '71, Cochell was the coach at Creighton University, which plays host to the event.
And his name can be found several places in the Series guide--including as a member of the six-member NCAA Division I baseball committee and the seven-member College World Series Games Committee.
In case it sounds suspiciously unfair, note that Mark Marquess, Stanford coach, is also on both committees.
If ex-Titan Coach Augie Garrido feels a twinge of regret at seeing his former team in the Series, Cochell can sympathize. Cal State Los Angeles, a team Cochell coached from 1972-76, made it to the Series in 1977.
Miami and California are the only teams other than Fullerton to have swept through the regionals without a loss.
Keith Kaub, who hit three home runs in four games at the NCAA South Regional and has a .345 average, has garnered a lot of attention lately.
One player who hasn't, but should: third baseman Ralph Ramirez, who went 8 for 16 at the regional, upping his average to .346.
Brent Mayne, the Titan catcher who ended a 38-game hitting streak Monday, has the second-highest average of any regular player at the Series.
Only Mike Fiore of Miami (.404) has a higher average. Lance Shebelut of Fresno State is also at .401.