ASU Not Content with Just CWS Appearance

As the celebration began on Sunday night to chants of Omaha! Omaha! Omaha! From the capacity crowd inside of Packard Stadium, the ASU baseball team bobbed in rhythm next to the pitchers mound, head coach Pat Murphy hugged and thanked his squad and yet, something was missing – this wasn't so much a celebration of joy as of relief. This Sun Devil team is not finished yet.

"We aren't done yet." Said one fan, clad in Devil gold.

"Five victories still." Chimed another in complimentary maroon.

"This team has a shot." Added yet another.

The Devil fans are ready and as the Devil team prepares to board their plane for the two-hour destiny flight to Omaha, the buildup begins.

"This is unbelievable. At the beginning of the year, our goal was to get to Omaha and make a run at the national championship." Brett Wallace, hero of Saturday night said. "As soon as it happened, I was just speechless."

A top eight seed can elude a team forever and earning the recognition can place a bull's eye square on a team. On the other side of the coin, earning the national seed helps the road to Omaha be somewhat easier knowing that all regional and super regional games will be played in your home field. Yet, Murphy knows just finding a slot in the 64-team field makes his team special.

"Anybody can get in because there is a lot of parity in college baseball." Murphy said, evidenced by the list of the final eight teams still standing in the tournament. California-Irvine won 45 games this season and knocked off the Shockers of Wichita State to move into the Omaha rounds for the first time in their history. The Cardinals of Louisville join the Anteaters in their first ever trip to the heralded Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium as they hung 20 runs on Oklahoma State in the Super Regional clinching game.

The equivalence continues to manifest itself as you realize that two teams make their inaugural trip to Omaha for the second time in seven years.

"I went two years ago and I didn't even play. I sat in the pen the entire time and it was still the best experience of my life, by far." Junior Josh Satow said. "Just going there, and being in that atmosphere, having all those people there, the fans and the whole experience.

"Most people don't get to do it once in their life and I get to do it twice. It is just so exciting."

The joy of the players makes the trip worthwhile, even though work remains.

"It's great for the players; that's the bottom line." Murphy said. "The student-athletes who get to experience in a different way, like Satow, because he'll be a main contributor.

"A guy like Wallace doesn't need to go through his college career without going to Omaha."

The Sun Devils will try to earn their sixth national title and first in the last quarter century this season in Omaha. If they come through with the five necessary victories, the school will move up the charts into a tie for second place all-time with the University of Texas, who won their sixth title in 2005 – both teams look up at University of Southern California who boasts the right to display 12 national championship trophies.

With all the talent on both sides of the field for Murphy, does this team compare well to his best teams?

"From the standpoint of pure defense in the infield and catching, and three guys who love it out on the mound and go deep in the game every time and offensively how many weapons we have, yes." Murphy said after the Omaha clinching victory.

The skills on the field do not win every game by themselves and a 32-3 record at home in 2007 shows that ASU carries a certain swagger with them during tough contests, pulling them through the hard times.

"When the cards are down, we get more stubborn and want to stay out there and keep on working through it." Satow said. "It's a good thing when you have that kind of attitude."

With the bulldog-mentality pitching staff, combined with the swagger knowing that the team always carries a chance in the late innings and the bats to make the attitude come through, Murphy should be able to rest easy – maybe not.

"We could have added a bunch more runs and we didn't and that drives me nuts. I think they do it on purpose." Murphy quipped.

Whatever ASU is doing, intentionally or not, Devil fans hope they keep the course. They head into Omaha as the lone national seed left in their half of the bracket, while seeds two and three (Rice and North Carolina) must duke it out against each other in the four-team group. Three victories in the double elimination, round-robin tournament earns the Devils their goal of a berth in the championship series where two more victories sew up a national title and ends a quarter-century drought.

"I don't think this has hit me yet. It's been my dream my whole life and to do it for the team that I've wanted to play for my whole life is just amazing." Post-season hero, CJ Retherford said. "I don't think it's really sunk in yet."

Retherford, Wallace, Satow and Murphy's Devils start their journey Saturday at 1 p.m. and to hear Murphy say it – "This is good, old-fashioned baseball, guys playing for keeps."

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