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Familiar Turf for the Cardinal

College baseball: Stanford is back in Omaha for the fourth year in a row as the World Series begins.

June 14, 2002|From Associated Press

OMAHA — Stanford Coach Mark Marquess never gets tired of Omaha in June.

The Cardinal are back at the College World Series for the fourth consecutive year.

"It's a thrill to be back," Marquess said Thursday. "It's never happened when we've come four straight years. It's a special group."

Stanford and Nebraska are the only teams back from last year's field. Texas and Clemson played here two years ago and Rice was a 1999 participant. Georgia Tech's last appearance was in 1994, South Carolina last played here in 1985 and Notre Dame last appeared in 1957.

"There's an element of luck there. You don't like to admit it, but it's there," Marquess said.

The Cardinal has the most recent title of any of this year's teams, winning consecutive championships in 1987-88. It was close to adding another two years ago but let a three-run lead get away in the eighth inning and lost to Louisiana State, 6-5. Last year's 12-1 loss to Miami wasn't as much of a heartbreaker but was equally disappointing.

"Last year we were young and inexperienced. This is a different team," Marquess said.

As popular as Stanford has become in Omaha, the crowd favorite will be Nebraska. The Cornhuskers made their first trip to the Series last June and Rosenblatt Stadium was packed for their two games.

The trip quickly turned to disappointment as the Cornhuskers lost one-run games to Cal State Fullerton and Tulane.

"It was almost like it didn't happen because we were here and we were gone," Nebraska Coach Dave Van Horn said.

Van Horn is trying to keep the Cornhuskers' emotions more level this time. The attention the Cornhuskers received last year drained the players, Van Horn said.

"This time went the opposite way so nobody saw us. We tried to just low-key everything," Van Horn said.

Play opens today with Georgia Tech (51-14) facing South Carolina (53-16), followed by Nebraska (47-19) against Clemson (52-15).

"We're here and hopefully we're going to stay a little while longer," Clemson Coach Jack Leggett said.

The Tigers played only three games when they were here two years ago, getting knocked out by Louisiana Lafayette when the Ragin' Cajuns scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth.

South Carolina is in the World Series for the sixth time.

Georgia Tech's only other appearance ended in a loss to Oklahoma in the title game. Georgia Tech's lineup that year included current major leaguers Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Jay Payton. This year the Yellow Jackets feature 15 freshmen.

"They're not playing like freshmen anymore. They had a grueling schedule and they passed the test," said South Carolina Coach Ray Tanner, whose Gamecocks beat the Yellow Jackets, 8-3, in February.

Texas is in its 29th World Series, eight more than any other school. Coach Augie Garrido led Cal State Fullerton to titles in 1979, '94 and '95.

Notre Dame was the last team to qualify. The Fighting Irish's super regional at Florida State was delayed a day by rain. The Irish won it in three games with a 3-1 victory Monday, knocking out the top-seeded Seminoles.

"The understatement of the year is that we're very happy to be here. It only took us 45 years to get here," Coach Paul Mainieri said.

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