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COLLEGES:Eater Nation a hot spot

June 22, 2007|By Barry Faulkner

Next was an 8-7 triumph that eliminated No. 3-ranked ASU, as a good portion of the 29,034 remaining Rosenblatt rooters stood and chanted "Ol-lie, Ol-lie," only to break into a roar when junior center fielder Ollie Linton singled with the bases loaded to claim a game the Sun Devils once led, 7-3.

Serrano later chose this victory, from a season of achievement, as the event that most exemplified what his team was all about.

Wednesday's game between UCI and defending national champion Oregon State, last year's underdog darling, drew 29,921 fans, a number that's only been topped only once in CWS history.

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Most of those spectators came away disappointed as the Beavers advanced to the best-of-three championship series with a 7-1 triumph.

But regardless of who carts the national championship trophy through the now-iconic archway leading in and out of Rosenblatt, it would be hard to argue any team took more from this College World Series than the Anteaters.

"Before I was talking about the dream," Serrano said of his countless Omaha references since arriving from Cal State Fullerton, where he helped the Titans win the 2004 national crown. "I'd say, OK guys, I've been to Omaha, the 29,000 people, the emotion, the TV cameras, all the interviews.

"Now all that is a reality for [the players]. Now, they know what to prepare for. When I tell my pitchers to go to the bullpen and prepare to throw in front of 29,000 people, they can see it now."

Many also foresee a bright future for the latest West Coast diamond force, especially if Serrano can withstand the riches many expect to be offered by envious, deep-pocketed programs such as Tennessee, where he was an assistant.

But, much like senior Cody Cipriano and junior Taylor Holiday — two players who figure to be remembered more fondly in Anteaters' lore than UCI product Brady Anderson — Serrano sounded after Wednesday's loss as if leaving this program would not be an act of volition.

"Eater Nation is awesome," said Serrano, still smiling despite his players' tears in the postgame clubhouse. "I've heard the buzz at home has been unbelievable. I can't wait to get home to hear what people are saying about our program and our university."

That discussion, generated by this special season, may never end.

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS

A quick inventory of UCI baseball accomplishments this season ends with the final four finish in its inaugural visit to Omaha.

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