ALSO CHECK OUT: 2014 College World Series coverage
OMAHA, Neb. -- For just a little over four months, we've been entangled in yet another exciting year of college baseball.
Though there have been plenty of disappointments around the country, there also were plenty of surprises, and of course, those clubs who began the season with high expectations, and have done a terrific job of meeting them.
Virginia is one of those clubs. The Cavaliers began the season ranked No. 1 in the country and will face Vanderbilt in the series finale of the CWS Finals for the national title Wednesday night.
With this being the first CWS Finals to go to a third game since LSU-Texas went to a Game 3 in 2009 -- with the Tigers winning their sixth national title in school history -- we once again join our friends at Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) in looking at some of the more memorable national champions since the start of the CWS Finals, which began with Stanford and Rice in 2003 at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Oregon State (2006, '07): The Beavers made college baseball history by becoming the first team since LSU in the mid-90s to win back-to-back national titles. The Beavers did it using the strong arm of Jonah Nickerson in 2006. Nickerson made three starts in that CWS, tallying a 0.84 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings in Omaha. In 2007, young righthanded pitcher Jorge Reyes helped lead the Beavers to back-to-back titles, but it also was the production and leadership of Mitch Canham that helped get the job done. Canham finished that CWS with an impressive .400 batting average in 20 at bats.
South Carolina (2010, '11): Just a few years after the Beavers captured back-to-back national titles, coach Ray Tanner led his Gamecocks to the same feat behind some magical players. The Gamecocks beat UCLA in the CWS Finals in 2010, and just had hero after hero in that CWS, including then little known lefthanded pitcher Michael Roth, who went on to become one of the most decorated pitchers in college baseball history. Roth made four appearances, including two starts, in the 2010 CWS, tallying a 1.10 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. In 2011, the Gamecocks captured the national title over SEC foe Florida, with relievers Matt Price and John Taylor combining to throw 16 2/3 innings of scoreless relief work in the entire CWS.
Rice (2003): Owls head coach Wayne Graham has done a tremendous job with his program over the years, and dating back to his days at San Jacinto Junior College. He finally reached the pinnacle of college baseball in '03, beating rival Texas on the way to the program's first national title, beating Stanford in the CWS Finals. The Owls had one of the best rotations in NCAA history that season with Jeff Niemann, Wade Townsend and Philip Humber leading the way. The Owls also had a true spark plug that season in gritty, hard-nosed Chris Kolkhorst. That team stands alone as the most decorated in Rice history.
LSU (2009): It had been nine seasons since the Tigers last won a national title, but they turned the tide in 2009 with coach Paul Mainieri leading the way. Mainieri guided Notre Dame, his previous employer, to the CWS earlier in the decade, but was unable to capture a national title. He did in '06 with the Tigers getting a crop of strong performances, namely from righthanded pitcher Louis Coleman and shortstop DJ LeMahieu, among others. Perhaps most memorable about the CWS Finals win over Texas was LSU's post-game victory parade around the perimeter of the baseball diamond. Amazingly, there were enough fans in purple and gold to make it a full lap around the ballpark.
Texas (2005): The Longhorns had quite a fun run to the College World Series title in '05 against quite a tough bracket with Tulane and Big 12 rival Baylor. The Longhorns needed a rally to best the Bears on the way to the CWS Finals, and there, they were impressive. In that CWS, third baseman David Maroul went from an obscure player on the national stage to an Omaha legend with a rash of performances that ended with a .500 batting average, two homers and eight RBIs in Omaha. Meanwhile, righthanded pitchers Kyle McCulloch and Adrian Alaniz were terrific in the starting rotation, and closer J. Brent Cox made five appearances, struck out 12 and didn't allow a run in 10 1/3 innings pitched in that CWS. UT beat Matt LaPorta and Florida in the CWS Finals that year.