Cal State Long Beach's baseball team heads to Omaha this week for its second appearance in three years in the College World Series, but Coach Dave Snow is taking a careful look at what he calls his team's Achilles' heel.
After winning the Central Regional title with an 8-4 victory over Oklahoma State at Austin, Tex., on Monday, Snow told reporters that he had been disappointed with the team's inconsistent play during the regular season. Although he said the regional victory somewhat atoned for that, he said he worried about his players' inability to concentrate on their objectives for long periods of time.
"It can be a constant battle with young guys to keep them focused on the game and to make them understand . . . that they've got to prepare themselves," Snow said. "You can go out and score a lot of runs. Those kinds of games take care of themselves. But players need to understand that they've got to be in the right frame of mind to win a one-run game or be ready to come from behind and win."
The 49ers (44-20) face top-ranked Wichita State (63-12) Saturday in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament. The game begins at 4:36 p.m., and will be televised on ESPN.
Snow said the 49ers' attitude improved after a team meeting before the regional tournament.
"I felt we had a good enough team to get into the tournament, but we had somewhat underachieved," he said. "I confronted our team with that."
This is the third trip to the College World Series for Snow, his second as the coach at Cal State Long Beach. He made the finals while coaching Loyola Marymount in 1986, then led Long Beach to the World Series in 1989, his first year with the 49ers.
But there are few similarities between that team and this one.
Two years ago, the 49ers were considered a team of overachievers, a club whose success Snow accomplished with mirrors. Still, that team compiled a 50-15 record.
This year's team began the season with high expectations but finished third in the Big West Conference, losing six one-run games. The performance puzzled the coach.
"I felt like maybe we had the best team in the conference personnel-wise," he said. "I told the guys that the regional was, in my eyes, a second chance to prove something to ourselves, and they responded to that."
Which team will show up in Omaha? Not even Snow is sure.
"We went into Texas on a mission. I'm somewhat concerned going back to Omaha that we can stay focused," he said. "Sometimes players get in awe of the situation, and maybe a little satisfied just to be there.
"(But) if we go in with the same mind-set and determination that we had going into the regional--if we are a hungry ballclub that wants to prove itself--then we have a chance to take it another step."
This is considered to be one of the most balanced fields in the 41-year history of the tournament. "I honestly believe this will be the strongest field in College World Series history," said Florida State Coach Mike Martin.
The teams' mental preparations for the next week of games will probably determine how well they do, Snow said.
"Some team is going to go in there with the intent and attitude that, 'It ain't no big deal that we just won a regional.' That team will have set out to win the whole thing," he said.
The tournament begins Friday afternoon with second-ranked Florida State (57-12) against ninth-ranked Fresno State (41-21) at 1:06, followed by No. 4 LSU (51-18) against No. 5 Florida (49-19).
Third-ranked Clemson (60-8) plays eighth-ranked Creighton (49-20) at 10:06 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Long Beach-Wichita State game.
Creighton, of Omaha, is the first Nebraska team to qualify for the series.
"To finally get a Nebraska team in there, that's great," said Clemson Coach Bill Wilheim. "This could be a real wingding."