Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Road to Omaha toughened remaining teams at CWS
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn (right) shakes hands with Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco prior to a College World Series game Monday, June 20, 2022, in Omaha, Neb.
OMAHA, Neb. — A common theme runs through the three teams remaining at the College World Series.
Arkansas, Ole Miss and Oklahoma never played a home game during the NCAA postseason. Their long stays in Omaha are a continuation of a weeks-long road trip that has included short pit stops at home between rounds.
The teams’ coaches said this week that winning road regionals and super regionals built toughness that likely contributed to wins at Schwab Field.
“I think the path to get to Omaha still a little easier, the road is a little quicker and shorter playing through your own ballpark, but you can still get there another way,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “I don’t know how you measure it, but there's certainly some reality that winning on the road, being at a different place, it takes a certain amount of toughness to get through the travel and all of that.”
Bianco said he joked with Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn during the College World Series opening ceremony on June 16 about how long the teams have been on the road. The Razorbacks have been away from Fayetteville for 29 days since May 18.
It has not been quite as grueling of a stretch for Ole Miss, which played a home series against Texas A&M to end the regular season, but the Rebels have played 14 of their last 17 away from their ballpark.
“I think since May 1 we've played three games at home and have been on the road and been in a suitcase and been in a hotel for a long time,” Bianco said. “But when you get here it really doesn't matter because everybody's in the hotel and the suitcase.”
Oklahoma, which has already advanced to the national championship series and awaits the winner of Thursday’s 3 p.m. game between Arkansas and Ole Miss, has had a similar path as the Razorbacks. The Sooners played their final home game May 15 and have since played games at Wichita State, Texas Tech, Florida and Virginia Tech, and at the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington, Texas, in addition to their three games in Omaha.
Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson said that stretch has taught his team how to control the environment in which it is playing.
“Nine times out of 10, it’s not the physical things that happen within your environment, it’s the mental things that happen that hurt the physical things,” Johnsons said. “If you have a million thoughts going in your head and you’re listening to the popcorn vendor up there or the hot dog vendor up there, then you lose sight of what you have to accomplish, which is trying to throw the ball to the target or watching the top inside part of the ball.”
Asked earlier in the week about the success of teams that advanced via the road, Van Horn said he thinks playing away from home can help teams become comfortable in uncomfortable situations, but added, “It’s just teams that are playing well right now."
Arkansas and Oklahoma were No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and Ole Miss was a No. 3 seed. It guarantees the national championship series will include two non-national seeds for the first time since Coastal Carolina defeated Arizona to win the title in 2016.
Road to Omaha
Arkansas, Ole Miss and Oklahoma have played several games away from home during their run to and through the College World Series. Here is a look at the runs for each team.
May 19 — at Alabama, W 7-3
May 20 — at Alabama, L 8-6
May 21 — at Alabama, L 18-5
May 25 — vs. Alabama, L 4-3&
May 27 — vs. Florida, L 7-5&
June 3 — vs. Grand Canyon, W 7-1*
June 4 — at Oklahoma State, W 20-12*
June 5 — at Oklahoma State, L 14-10 (10 innings)*
June 6 — at Oklahoma State, W 7-3*
June 11 — at North Carolina, W 4-1#
June 12 — at North Carolina, W 4-3#
June 18 — vs. Stanford, W 17-2^
June 20 — vs. Ole Miss, L 13-5^
June 21 — vs. Auburn, W 11-1^
June 22 — vs. Ole Miss, W 3-2^
May 24 — vs. Vanderbilt, L 3-1&
June 4 — vs. Arizona, W 7-4**
June 5 — at Miami, W 2-1**
June 6 — vs. Arizona, W 22-6**
June 11 — at Southern Miss, W 10-0!
June 12 — at Southern Miss, W 5-0!
June 18 — vs. Auburn, W 5-1^
June 20 — vs. Arkansas, W 13-5^
June 22 — vs. Arkansas, L 3-2^
May 16 — at Wichita State, L 18-0
May 19 — at Texas Tech, W 13-8
May 20 — at Texas Tech, W 9-6
May 21 — at Texas Tech, L 10-2
May 25 — vs. West Virginia, W 6-4%
May 26 — vs. Texas Tech, W 6-3%
May 28 — vs. Kansas State, W 4-3%
May 29 — vs. Texas, W 8-1%
June 3 — vs. Liberty, W 16-3***
June 4 — at Florida, W 9-4***
June 5 — at Florida, L 7-2***
June 6 — at Florida, W 5-4***
June 10 — at Virginia Tech, W 5-4$
June 11 — at Virginia Tech, L 14-8$
June 12 — at Virginia Tech, W 11-2$
June 17 — vs. Texas A&M, W 13-8^
June 19 — vs. Notre Dame, W 6-2^
June 22 — vs. Texas A&M, W 5-1^
& SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
% Big 12 Tournament in Arlington, Texas
* NCAA Regional in Stillwater, Okla.
** NCAA Regional in Coral Gables, Fla.
*** NCAA Regional in Gainesville, Fla.
# NCAA Super Regional in Chapel Hill, N.C.
! NCAA Super Regional in Hattiesburg, Miss.
$ NCAA Super Regional in Blacksburg, Va.
^ College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
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