"I had no idea who Stony Brook was a week ago," laughed Dana O'Brien of Omaha. "But look at the run they've made. It's incredible. How can you not root for them?"
That run included dispatching top-seeded Miami Hurricanes, 10-2, in the opening game of the Coral Gables regional, before taking two straight from UCF to advance to the super regional, where they knocked national powerhouse LSU in its own home of Alex Box Stadium to become the second No. 4 seed to make it to Omaha.
Looking around, O'Brien added, "I think it's safe to say the city of Omaha is adopting these guys."
Just like it adopted TCU in 2010, Fresno State in 2008 (the only other No. 4 seed to make it to Omaha; not to mention a squad that won it all), and so many others before.
"That's what Omaha's known for," O'Brien said, "taking the underdog under its wing."
“I think we had more fans at our practice than we had at our stadium all season,” said senior pitcher Tyler Johnson, Friday's starter on the mound. “It’s amazing. This is just unbelievable.”
"I know I went from 60 followers on Twitter to about 600 in two weeks, so I guess the world knows who we are," smiled junior infielder Willie Carmona. "This is a kid's dream just being here. This place is ridiculous. It's amazing. There are no words to really express the way I feel right now."
As center fielder Tyler Jankowski- leading the team with a .422 average and a .485 on-base percentage- calmly put it, "We took it day by day, game by game, and we made the dreams a reality… You know, with the Cinderella theme, that's what you get when you're a four-seed and you advance to the College World Series. But, I mean, we got 52 wins, some of the most in Division I right now. We embrace the Cinderella story, but we know that we can compete, too."
"We're talented. And that's not just me saying that- that's Major League Baseball drafting seven of our guys," said Stony Brook Head Coach Matt Senk. "And we're prepared- I have a great coaching staff- and with preparedness comes confidence. So if there was an x-factor, if you want to refer to it as a chip, it was playing loose."
"That makes for a very dangerous team when you can have talent and confidence, and they can go out there and play loose. That's a formula for success."
Carmona, who batted .524 in the Coral Gables Regional and then .500 in the Baton Rouge Super Regional, said it best: "This is a business trip for us, and we want to shock the world again."
Work begins Friday for the Seawolves when they take on the nation's second-ranked UCLA Bruins in the opening game of the 2012 College World Series.
"I dont think it's going to be easy," said Senk. "We got a huge challenge ahead of us. As I said down at LSU, though, if we were going to play in any super regional, I'm glad it was that because what better environment are you going to play in. So, perhaps that will help us. There's no guarantee, but based on the way they handled themselves in that environment, I think we'll be okay."
Game time is set for 4 p.m. CST at TD Ameritrade Park.