“There is a nucleus of players who have played in front of big crowds and, in some cases, very difficult places to play,” said Gillespie, who guided USC to five CWS appearances, including the 1998 national championship. “Baton Rouge [where the host Tigers will await having won 23 straight, including their own regional Sunday] is certainly one of those places.
“[The Tigers, one of eight national seeds in the field that began as 64 teams and will Monday be pared to 16] have been extraordinarily hot in the last six weeks or so [they are on a 23-game winning streak]. They play in an echo chamber with a metal corrugated roof hanging behind home plate, so the noise is magnified 10-fold.
“I trust our players will be excited, as they should be, but not intimidated or awestruck.”
Oral Roberts Coach Rob Walton, whose team lost twice to UCI in the regional, had high praise for Gillespie, his staff of associate head coach Pat Shine, pitching coach Ted Silva, assistant Bob Macaluso and director of baseball operations Jason Dietrich, as well as the Anteaters players.
“That’s probably the most prepared baseball team I’ve played against in my 10 years of coaching,” said Walton, who will coach the U.S. national team this summer. “It’s as well-prepared a baseball team as there is. They take care of the ball and do the little things right. They have good pitching. Offensively, they try to create offense and they do a good job of it. They’re as well-coached a team as any I’ve been around in a long, long time.”
Further, Walton said UCI is no longer the gutty little newcomer on the national baseball scene with the cute little unusual mascot.