OMAHA — The lettering on Lee Plemel's shirt was far too precise.
There had not been enough time for anyone to put pen to cotton, at least not so neatly, but there he stood in the midst of Stanford's celebration, wearing a gray T-shirt, on it the handwritten words, "Stanford Baseball/national champs/1988."
Plemel had not pitched during Stanford's 9-4 victory over Arizona State Saturday for the College World Series title. Perhaps, then, when the outcome became clear, he had gone back into the clubhouse and carefully measured and printed the message on the shirt.
But not at all.
Plemel, a former Laguna Hills High School pitcher, had made the shirt before Stanford played even its first regional game--eight victories before the Cardinal won the national title.
"Me and some friends did this last year, and it worked," he said.
Stanford won the title last year, and this year it became the first team to repeat since USC won five straight from 1970-74.
Perhaps the shirt played its part, but Plemel can take a good portion of the credit himself. He pitched two complete-game victories for Stanford in the Series, beating Fresno State and Cal State Fullerton, allowing just 4 runs in 18 innings.
For his performance, he was named the Series' most outstanding player.
Plemel, a senior, looked genuinely surprised when his name was called as the outstanding player, even though it was a choice obvious enough that cameras were trained on him before the announcement.
"I was surprised," he said. "I knew I pitched well in two games, but it usually goes to someone who played in the last game."
His Stanford teammates surrounded him, cheering him with high fives, except for his catcher, Doug Robbins, who lifted him in a hug.
Plemel (12-8) had his difficulties during this season. Once he had a no-decision in a game in which he struck out 15, and he lost 5 of 6 games at one point.
"During the season, it wasn't a matter of arm trouble," he said. "I did start getting discouraged. Sometimes I would go out with good stuff and still get hit."
But after his record fell to 5-6, things changed.
"From there, I concentrated on each game one at a time."
It was one at a time in the postseason, too--one complete game at a time.
He was at his best in the postseason, earning three complete-game victories for Stanford, including a victory over Rutgers in the Northeast Regional. His postseason earned-run average was 1.67. Stanford didn't need him in the final--the grass stains on his uniform were only from the celebratory pileup--but Plemel said he could have gone a couple of innings if needed.
It wasn't necessary. His only job Saturday was to enjoy it.
"It's great, it's great," he said. "As good as last year, no question."
Troy Paulsen knows the meaning of a ring of one's own.
Paulsen, who played at La Quinta High School, was a member of Stanford's championship team last year, but he did not make the trip to Omaha because he was recovering from knee surgery.
He got a national championship ring, but it never felt as if he had earned it.
Now, after Stanford's victory Saturday in the College World Series final, he will be getting another.
"It's a lot different," said Paulsen. "Last year, I was so happy for the team, but I felt left out. This year, I was on the field playing."
Paulsen was 2 for 5 with a run batted in in the title game, and he finished the season batting .342, second best on the team.