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COLLEGE BASEBALL : The Citadel Sends Storm Warning

May 30, 1990|GARY KLEIN

The Citadel's baseball team was unfazed last September when Hurricane Hugo ripped through Charleston, S.C., and destroyed its stadium on the military academy's 148-year-old campus.

The Bulldogs couldn't get on their field until a week before their season began. After their second game, they went on a 26-game winning streak.

Despite the fast start, few observers considered The Citadel a serious contender for a regional playoff berth, much less the national title.

That thinking changed Tuesday after the Bulldogs had stormed through the NCAA Atlantic Regional at Coral Gables, Fla., and advanced to the 44th College World Series at Omaha, Neb.

The Citadel is the most unlikely entry in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament that begins Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium with top-seeded Stanford playing No. 8 Georgia Southern, and No. 4 Georgia meeting No. 5 Mississippi State.

On Saturday, Cal State Fullerton, seeded sixth, will face No. 3 Oklahoma State, and No. 2 LSU will take on No. 7 The Citadel.

"We may not win another game, but we've had a hell of a lot of fun here," Chal Port, coach of The Citadel, said after his team wrapped up regional play with a 4-1 victory over Miami.

The Citadel (45-12) beat the top-seeded Hurricanes twice in the regional to become the first all-military college--including the three service academies and Virginia Military Institute--to play in the College World Series.

Fullerton (36-21), which won national titles in 1979 and '84, is making its sixth trip to the World Series. The Titans, under third-year Coach Larry Cochell, finished third in 1988 and missed the playoffs last season.

Fullerton advanced to Omaha by going unbeaten through the Central Regional at Austin, Tex., including two victories over Texas. The Titans have committed only one error in four playoff games.

"You have to be concerned about your team, not who you're playing," Cochell said when asked about Oklahoma State. "That's what we did in Texas, and we played great."

Stanford (56-10), which won consecutive titles in 1987 and '88, is in the World Series for the sixth time in nine years. The Cardinal missed the playoffs last season for the first time in nine years when it finished 30-28.

Home-field advantage? Miami, Arizona State, Texas and defending national champion Wichita State failed to advance in regionals in which they were host teams.

When Oklahoma State defeated Arizona State in the West II regional at Tempe, Ariz., it marked only the second time in 11 home regionals that the Sun Devils had been eliminated. Fullerton ousted Arizona State at Tempe in 1982.

Oklahoma State, the 10-time defending Big Eight Conference champion, will be making its 22nd appearance in the College World Series. The Cowboys finished second in 1981 and '87.

"We've come together as a team here in the postseason," said Cowboy outfielder Steve Dailey, who is from Ventura. "We are getting the hitting from everyone and getting well-pitched games every time out. This is what we need to do in Omaha. This is what it takes to win a national championship."

Career year: UCLA catcher Paul Ellis, who led the nation in home runs this season, is among the 10 finalists for a college-player-of-the-year award to be presented by the Greater Houston Sports Assn. on June 21.

Ellis, a senior, tied Jim Auten's school record with his 29th homer Monday during UCLA's 5-4 loss to Georgia Southern that eliminated the Bruins from the Midwest Regional at Wichita, Kan.

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