Creighton is in an NCAA baseball regional again. How'd that happen?
Don't ask the coach.
For nearly three months, Ed Servais pushed every button in his repertoire with his wayward defending Missouri Valley champs. He got tough, backed off, tried to light a fire by challenging their lack of leadership, accountability. Nothing worked.
Finally, as the team left for the Valley tourney in Springfield, Mo., last Sunday, Servais tried one last trick.
“We talked about trusting each other,” Servais said. “Put all the individual stuff in a corner. We have to go down there as a unit and trust. When I call a bunt, know that the next guy is going to drive you in.
“Well, the next morning, something happened. Eight in the morning, on Monday, we're practicing in Springfield. It wasn't just by a little bit, it was by far our best practice.
“They were enthusiastic, full of energy. They went down there and had a blast. That hour seemed like five minutes. After practice, I said if you play with that same energy all week, it will take a great team to beat you.”
What tripped the switch?
“I don't know,” Servais said, laughing. “It was second chance. It was it doesn't matter what we did in the season, put it behind you. If I knew, I would say it again the first day of practice next year.”
This is why Servais is one of my favorite coaches. He's genuine. He doesn't take himself seriously. He doesn't try to impress you. Even in his worst year, he's consistent. He's Coach Ed.
Jim Hendry will always be the legend, that guy the Jaybackers invite back every year to hear the same stories, the guy who took CU to unprecedented heights.
But Servais has the best record of any coach in Jays baseball history and has taken teams to more NCAA regionals. He may never get asked back to tell jokes one day, but he's carving his own legend.
It continued this year as Servais may have done his best coaching job.
That sounds loony. The Jays finished last in the Valley. They had big expectations and fell flat. They got hot for a week in southwest Missouri.
Give the players credit for never tanking. They hung in there, put themselves in position for the light to come on at the right moment. That came from their coaches, who didn't tank on their team. What the Jays did last week is a credit to them, but it's also a reflection of the consistent man at the wheel.
Servais said he talked too much this year about history. A lot of folks in Omaha question whether CU should play in the big stadium, whether they can keep it up and get folks to show up. Servais felt that pressure. So did his team. They don't want to be one-hit wonders. They want to be NCAA regulars.
When they finally lightened up and coached and played ball, that's what happened. Creighton baseball is rock solid inside. It's here to stay, no matter what happens this week. The Jays are playing with house money now. They have an ace on a roll and a dangerous late-season chemistry. UCLA may be the No. 2 overall seed, but the Bruins better show up.
There's a debate going on whether this year was Creighton's best overall sports year. Men's soccer played in the College Cup, men's and women's hoops won their league tourneys and made the NCAAs, and now baseball did it, too.
I still have to go with 1991, when the Jays made the CWS and men's hoops won the league regular-season and tourney titles and won an NCAA game. The CWS does it for me, and those baseball and men's hoops teams were two of the school's all-time best groups.
Creighton sports information guru Rob Anderson suggested the 2000-01 season, when soccer played in the NCAA championship game and men's hoops won the league title and tourney. Also, the 2006-07 year, when baseball and men's hoops won league tournaments and men's soccer and softball made the NCAAs.
I would downgrade this year because baseball finished last in the Valley while men's hoops finished second and women's hoops fourth. But it was a very good year. And not over yet.
I'm pulling for Purdue to get to Omaha, not just so a northern exposure team can find its way to our burg, but also to put an end to the maddening excuses coming from Big Ten baseball people. Get a Big Ten team here, and we don't have to listen to any more talk of moving the season to summer or fall. The Boilers will have to beat a Kentucky team that was No. 1 for most of the season, finished second in the SEC and feels snubbed for not getting a regional. Boiler Up.
I like the committee putting Purdue and Oregon in the same bracket. The Ducks would have to get past a reunion matchup against coach George Horton's former team (Cal State Fullerton). But any new blood is welcome. I'd also like to see how many uniforms the Ducks would bring to Omaha.
Missouri's first Big 12 championship (and last), along with Creighton's unlikely run, probably knocked out Wichita State and Texas. I'm sure you feel really bad. But the Shox and Bevos deserve their fate. Neither finished high in its league and both went two-and-BBQ in the league tourney. That's three straight years without a regional for Gene Stephenson's WSU program. Wonder how that's going over?
I like how Darin Erstad's mind works. His post-game press conference after the Huskers were eliminated from the Big Ten tournament was full of praise and purpose. Erstad talked glowingly about the Ohio State pitcher's guts, but you know that was meant for his own players' ears. When a coach goes out of his way to praise the opponent after a game, he's often sending a message to his own team: Do what they do.
Expect to see some new faces in the lineup and on the mound next year at Haymarket Park. Hard-nosed leader types need only apply.
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com reports that the conference commissioners are leaning toward using the bowls to host the two semifinal games of a playoff, then bid out the championship game each year.
This would accomplish a couple of things. One, keep the bowls in the mix. The talk of on-campus sites was a worthy idea, but only the Big Ten supported it. The commishes are going to hold tight to the bowls. Change is hard and the power boys in football don't want to trash the bowl system. Remember, a lot of people get bowl bonuses.
Also, this would reward the top two seeds by getting to “host” the game in their home bowl. If Alabama is No. 1 and USC is No. 2, the semifinals are played in the Champions Bowl (wherever and whatever that is) and the Rose Bowl, against the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds.
In that case, the Big Ten champ would be farmed out to another bowl.
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman raises a good point: Did the Big 12 make a mistake signing the bowl deal to play the SEC champ every year? The point: If you have to play the SEC champ every year in a playoff, how far can you go?
Got a lot of positive feedback about moving Bob Boozer Drive downtown to the CenturyLink Center. Several readers want Bob Gibson Drive to move downtown, too, by TD Ameritrade Park, and next to Creighton and north Omaha. That's a good idea, too.
The final sporting event in the Civic Auditorium was not a hockey game. It most likely will be an Omaha Beef game, perhaps this Friday night. The Beef, who will follow the Lancers to Ralston next year, play their final home game against Cedar Rapids. With three games left, the Beef (5-6) trail Chicago (6-5) for the final playoff spot in their conference. Just in case you were wondering.
So here's your 2012 CWS: Florida State, North Carolina, LSU, UCLA, Baylor, Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina State.
Anybody remember when the CWS started the Friday after Memorial Day? When it was over by June 10? When games started at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.? Yeah, me neither.
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