Eight-team CWS field loaded with traditional powers

Originally Published: June 14, 2004

OMAHA, Neb. -- Omaha has played host to the College World Series since 1950, and the event gets better every year, an NCAA official says.

"This is the 55th year in Omaha, and we're just getting started," NCAA managing director of baseball Dennis Poppe said at a news conference Monday outside the entrance to Rosenblatt Stadium.

The series, which advertises itself as the "Greatest Show on Dirt," begins Friday and runs through either June 27 or 28.

While baseball remains the focal point, Poppe said, the CWS continues to evolve off the field. Two sports interactive areas that test fans' athletic skills are featured outside the stadium this year.

Opening ceremonies on Thursday will be highlighted by Olympic-style introductions of the eight teams, a free concert and fireworks.

CWS attendance was a record 260,091 last year.

There will be plenty of traditional flavor to this year's tournament. Five programs on the top-10 list of most CWS appearances are in the field.

Friday's second game pits longtime rivals Arkansas (44-20) and Texas (55-13). Texas is playing in the CWS for a record 31st time. Arkansas is back for the first time since 1989 and is led by former Nebraska coach Dave Van Horn, who guided the Cornhuskers to their only CWS appearances in 2001 and '02.

Georgia (43-21), back for the second time in four years, plays an Arizona team (35-25-1) that is in the CWS for the 15th time but for the first time since 1986.

LSU (46-17), which is in the field for the 13th time since 1986, opens Saturday against a Miami team (49-11) that is making its 21st appearance. It will be the first time LSU and Miami have met since the Tigers' Warren Morris hit his game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 9-8 victory in the 1996 championship game.

The other first-round game pits South Carolina (50-15), in the CWS for the third straight year and eighth time overall, against a Cal State Fullerton squad (42-21) that is in the tournament for the fourth time since 1999 and 13th time overall.

Mayor Mike Fahey said the city does its best to make the teams and their fans feel at home during the Series.

"Omaha is a great city to live in, but this time of year there is extra electricity in the air," Fahey said. "Omaha not only meets the expectations the NCAA sets for us every year. We exceed them."