OMAHA — While Texas Tech will be watering the tree on Thursday evening, Coastal Carolina will be playing for Rafiki.
After getting swept at Georgia Tech the last weekend in April, the Chanticleers purchased a stuffed monkey at a gas station and named it Rafiki.
Since then, Coastal Carolina is 19-3. Rafiki has a jersey and one of the members of the grounds crew made him a bat.
The players feed him before every game.
OMAHA — After every double, whichever Red Raider stood on second base, he began to do something curious.
He knelt down, and acted like he was planting seeds in the ground, watering them and finally pointing to the dugout where water was being thrown everywhere by his Texas Tech teammates.
It was, of course, a symbolic gesture that these Red Raiders know it takes time for things to grow — that there are no shortcuts, no quick fixes to reach the perfect outcome. And no settling for anything but the desired result.
OMAHA — Opposing pitchers know when Cory Raley gets on base.
And they fire over to first base often, trying to keep Raley honest and stationary.
While Texas Tech fans boo each throw to first because they want the pitcher to keep the game rolling by firing across the plate, there’s a beauty to each throw, after throw, after throw to the bag. Because of the increased attention, Raley draws the first baseman closer to the bag, which opens up a hole through the right side for a left-handed pull hitter in Tyler Neslony.
OMAHA — The Texas Tech fans gave their beloved Red Raider a standing ovation as he stepped to the plate in the 13th inning.
And with the bases loaded and two outs, Eric Gutierrez delivered a single up the middle to plate two runs and keep Tech’s season alive in the super regional against East Carolina.
A week later, on the biggest stage in college baseball, the senior delivered again to keep the Red Raiders alive in Omaha and send the No. 1 overall seed home.
OMAHA — Stephen Smith walked over to where Tyler Neslony was sitting in the locker room and asked, “Did you see it yet?”
The junior didn’t wait for an answer as he pulled up a chair next to Neslony and held up his phone where he had the final out of the game queued up.
OMAHA — This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders have faced elimination three different times during NCAA tournament play this season.
The first time came in the Lubbock Regional when Texas Tech dropped a 10-6 match-up to Dallas Baptist to force a second game against the Patriots.
Behind stellar pitching from Ryan Moseley and Hayde Howard, the Red Raiders defeated Dallas Baptist to advance to the super regionals.
OMAHA — The No. 1 seed in the College World Series has not won the national title since Miami in 1999, the first year of the current format.
To say Florida had high hopes for the season would be an understatement.
The Gators’ mantra “This is our year” — after going two and out in 2010, 2012 and coming up short in the College World Series finals in 2005, 2011 — sums up Florida’s mentality as it faces an early elimination.
OMAHA — It’s a smart move to intentionally walk an All-American and conference player of the year with runners on base, momentum and scoring opportunities on the line.
Except against this Texas Tech lineup.