Stanford Most Recent Champion In College World Series Field

June 13, 2002

Omaha, Neb. (AP) - Stanford coach Mark Marquess never gets tired of Omaha in June.

The Cardinal are back at the College World Series for the fourth straightyear and hoping to erase the bitter memories of losing in the last two titlegames.

'It's a thrill to be back,' Marquess said Thursday, the day before thetournament starts with a doubleheader. 'It's never happened when we've comefour straight years. It's a special group.'

Stanford and Nebraska are the only teams back from last year's field. Texasand Clemson played here two years ago and Rice was a 1999 participant. GeorgiaTech, South Carolina and Notre Dame are making their first appearances here ina while.

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

The Cardinal have the most recent title of any of this year's teams, winningconsecutive championships in 1987-88. They were close to adding another twoyears ago, but let a three-run lead get away in the eighth inning and lost 6-5to Louisiana State. Last year's 12-1 loss to Miami wasn't as much of aheartbreaker, 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 clearlybe Nebraska. The Cornhuskers made their first trip to the Series last June andRosenblatt Stadium was packed for threi two games.

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

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

Van Horn is trying to keep the Huskers' emotions a little more level thistime. The attention the Huskers got from the time fans lined the street inLincoln to see the team bus drive off to Omaha to the first game drained theplayers last year, Van Horn said.

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

The Series opens Friday with Georgia Tech (51-14) playing South Carolina(53-16), followed by Nebraska (47-19) and 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 in just three games when they were here two years ago,getting knocked out by Louisiana-Lafayette when the Ragin' Cajuns scored tworuns in the bottom of the ninth.

'I've seen a lot of funny things happen here,' Leggett said. 'You canthrow anything and everything out at this time of year.'

South Carolina is in the World Series for the sixth time, but this is theGamecocks' first trip here since 1985.

Georgia Tech is back for just the second time. The Yellow Jackets' onlyother appearance ended in a loss to Oklahoma in the 1994 title game. GeorgiaTech'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 scheduleand they passed the test,' said South Carolina coach Ray Tanner, whoseGamecocks beat the Yellow Jackets 8-3 in February.

On Saturday, Notre Dame (49-16) plays Stanford (45-16) in the early game andTexas (53-15) and Rice (52-12) meet for the third time this year. Texas wonboth earlier meetings.

'All of us sitting at the podium had the same dream when fall ball started.No doubt about it or we wouldn't be here,' Rice coach Wayne Graham said.

The Longhorns are in their 29th World Series, eight more than any otherschool. Coach Augie Garrido also led Cal State Fullerton to titles in 1979, '94and '95.

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

It's Notre Dame's first College World Series since 1957.

'The understatement of the year is that we're very happy to be here. Itonly took us 45 years go get here,' Notre Dame coach Paul Mainieri said. 'Tobe up here on this podium with these legendary coaches is kind of overwhelmingto me.'

By DOUG ALDEN
AP Sports Writer

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