OMAHA, Neb. -- The story, upon arrival, at the College World Series was that this is the last season the event will be played at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The story now, as the national championship series begins tonight, is that South Carolina and UCLA will play the final CWS game here, either Tuesday or Wednesday night.
"I think we'll look back one day and say, 'Wow, South Carolina and UCLA was the last series to be played at Rosenblatt Stadium,' " said Bruins coach John Savage, who was an assistant on the title-winning Southern Cal team in 1998. "We're very honored to be part of those two teams, and hopefully it will be a memorable series."
South Carolina's Ray Tanner has brought his team to the national title game (or games) twice now. The Gamecocks fell to Texas in 2002.
"To be part of the closing chapter here is very, very special," Tanner said. "It's a great lesson in history for all of us. And we're honored to be a part of it."
South Carolina outfielder Whit Merrifield and UCLA second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla were roommates last summer in the Cape Cod League. They dreamed together what it would be like to face off in the College World Series.
It's happening, but without Rahmatulla. Despite being the hero in a super regional victory, with a late home run, Rahmatulla broke his wrist when the Bruins celebrated their berth in Omaha.
UCLA has played on, despite losing a key member of the team. Rahmatulla was hitting .328 with seven homers and 45 RBIs at the time of the injury.
"I wish he was playing," Tanner said. "You hate to see something like that."
In good shape
Tanner credited strength coach Billy Anderson with keeping his players -- particularly the team's pitchers -- in good shape. Even after a long season, the Gamecocks are pitching a lot of innings -- and still pitching well.
The staff has a 2.68 ERA and .202 opponents' batting average in five games here. And that's against Arizona State, Oklahoma (twice) and Clemson (twice).
Starters Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson have both been effective on three days' rest. Left-handed reliever Michael Roth gutted through 109 pitches to throw a complete game Friday.
Closer Matt Price went two-plus innings Saturday and has thrown 130 pitches in Omaha.
"I'm grateful these guys took their conditioning seriously," Tanner said.
Tanner didn't rule Roth out as a starting possibility this week.
UCLA has a trophy room with more than 100 national titles in various sports, including a new one this year in softball. The baseball team, however, has never added to the school's hardware haul.
"Every day ... we see all the national championships," Savage said. "Baseball doesn't have anything underneath it. I guess it's a gut check every time you see it. And knowing that you could do something special and put it up there."
Savage groused a bit that his club isn't covered very much by the Los Angeles media, which focuses on pro sports. Tanner interjected.
"I've got a lot of media guys I'd like to send your way," he joked. (At least the reporters think he was joking.)
Some writers kidded that the columnist at The State, rather infamous in the fans' eyes, would be the first to go.
Reach Travis Haney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
, check out the Gamecocks blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks and follow him on Twitter (@gamecocksblog).