Sam Craft/AP Texas A&M catcher Cole Bedford, center right, hugs teammate Hunter Coleman (10) after defeating Davidson in an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game Saturday, June 10, 2017, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
When this season began, Texas A&M baseball coach Rob Childress probably didn’t expect to be sitting in Omaha in the middle of June, talking to reporters a few days before the College World Series.
After all, the Aggies were coming off their second loss to TCU in the super regionals in as many years and lost 16 players from that 2016 team, with 12 of those headed to the minor leagues.
And yet, Childress was seated at a table Friday with three other coaches he could face this week, talking about his team’s improbable journey. For the first time since 2011 and only the second time since 1999, the Aggies are one of the last eight teams remaining in the NCAA postseason.
But just because the Aggies have somehow made it to Omaha doesn’t mean they’re satisfied.
"We’re going to be going to win a national championship," A&M senior outfielder Nick Choruby said before the team’s super regional series win over Davidson last week. "We’re not just going to be happy to be going."
Sunday’s matchup between the Aggies (41-21) and No. 7 Louisville (52-10) is one that features two teams with opposite expectations. According to the Las Vegas’ Bovada Casino, Texas A&M has the worst odds of winning the national championship. The Cardinals have the best chances of holding the trophy at TD Ameritrade Park.
Louisville also happens to have junior Brendan McKay. McKay, who will start opposite A&M’s Corbin Martin, is the nation’s best two-way player and was drafted fourth overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in this week’s MLB amateur draft.
Louisville coach Dan McDowell said the left-handed pitcher with a 2.34 ERA and a team-high .464 on-base percentage has been level-headed and humble despite all the accolades that show he’s one of the best players in college baseball. McDowell said McKay helped ease Louisville’s transition into the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"We needed a superstar player like Brendan along with all the kids we’ve had around him to elevate each other and allow us to compete in a great baseball league," McDowell told reporters Friday.
While Louisville was on its way to being the ACC’s best team during the regular season, A&M was trying to fight its way into NCAA contention. The Aggies’ low points included a 17-3 loss to Vanderbilt and a loss to Missouri in the first round of the SEC tournament.
Yet, the Aggies managed to squeeze into the NCAA tournament and somehow found themselves hosting Davidson, the only No. 4 regional seed to advance to the super regionals.
"The guys believed an awful lot," Childress told those gathered in Omaha on Friday. "We found a way to get into the NCAAs and certainly made a lot of breaks along the way to get here."
That belief, along with some good defense and decent pitching, helped propel A&M into an unlikely postseason fate.
Before Childress traded his gray A&M polo into a maroon shirt for team picture day at the front of TD Ameritrade, he said he’d give his players the same tips he’d give someone before their wedding day.
"Remember every hand you shake and every hug you get," Childress said. "Don’t look up and go, ‘What just happened today?’ But at the same time, you need to make sure you keep your head down when it’s time to prepare in practices and when the games occur."
Texas A&M (41-21) will play the No. 7 national seed Louisville (52-10) in the afternoon game at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.