Every team that is in Omaha for the 70th College World Series has a story. The Cowboys came out of a lackluster Big 12 Tournament performance and had their pitching staff snap into sensational outings in both the Clemson Regional and the sweep of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., for the super regional. The Pokes played great defense and the offense was just punchy enough to always give the Cowboy hurlers a chance to pitch with a lead, sometimes a big lead.
The story for their first-round opponent in Omaha is a really good one. The UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos of the Big West Conference become the third straight Big West team to make it to Omaha. Two years ago, UC-Irvine made its way to Omaha through Stillwater beating the Cowboys in a super regional. All the Gauchos did was win the Nashville Regional at Vanderbilt and then sweep number two national seed Louisville in the park where the Cardinals had lost only one game all season.
"Every team has a story and theirs is a good one," Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday said. "I think they see themselves that way, as an underdog and I think they use that to their benefit."
One Cowboy is familiar with a key member of the 42-18-1 UC-Santa Barbara team. Shane Bieber is 17-4 this season with a 2.84 ERA and he is the ace of the staff for the Gauchos. Last summer he was the ace of the staff for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and had the Cowboys Donnie Walton playing behind him at shortstop.
Walton said they talked a lot about their college teams. He got a text from Bieber the other day when the Cowboys clinched over the Gamecocks and after the Gauchos had advanced with a pinch-hit, walk-off home run from freshman catcher Sam Cohen to beat eliminate Louisville 4-3.
Other than that, Walton says he isn't getting much info out of Bieber.
The Cowboys and the Gauchos open the College World Series in Bracket One in T.D. Ameritrade Park on Saturday at 2 p.m.