OMAHA, Neb. — In the immediate celebratory moments following the Nick Howard strikeout of Maryland’s Charlie White to clinch the Charlottesville Super Regional for Virginia on June 9, Joe McCarthy Sr. didn’t have time to think full circle, big picture.
That second of reflection came the next morning.
“I got everything settled down,” McCarthy Sr. said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, my son’s going to the College World Series and I was there 33 years ago.’”
His son is Joe McCarthy, UVa’s All-ACC right fielder for 127 of the past 129 games, including Monday’s opener of the CWS best-of-three finals against Vanderbilt.
On June 13, McCarthy Sr., joined by his wife, Joanne, daughter Morgan and son Jake, took his spot among the 13 RVs that line a parking lot section of the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, now better known as “Hooville.”
For McCarthy Sr., it was his first time back in the Omaha area since 1981 when he was an outfielder for South Carolina and the Gamecocks were making their third trip to the College World Series in seven years.
“It was the first year ESPN put the College World Series on TV,” McCarthy Sr. said. “They’d just stick a microphone in front of your face and say, ‘How’s Omaha?’”
Pretty thrilling, actually.
South Carolina lost its first game, 8-5 in 10 innings, to Oklahoma State. The Gamecocks then rebounded to beat Maine and Mississippi State before falling to eventual champion, Arizona State.
“It was really fun,” McCarthy Sr. said. “We had a good time.”
And earned a prized possession.
For their accomplishments, the Gamecocks were rewarded with CWS rings. Joe McCarthy, the UVa sophomore, used his father’s jewelry as inspiration.
“It’s been something that’s really motivated me to get here myself,” McCarthy said
Saturday while sitting in the TD Ameritrade Park locker room, just minutes after Virginia’s 4-1 win over Ole Miss to clinch a spot in these CWS finals. “It’s just been great to be able to do it with this group of guys.”
As Joe McCarthy Sr. put it: “You couldn’t ask for a better script.”
One where he’s now featured in two roles.
“When you’re a player,” McCarthy Sr. said, “I don’t think you’re as nervous. You have more control of what happens. But when you’re just a parent sitting in the stands, you’re a lot more nervous.”
They said it
Virginia starting pitcher Nathan Kirby on his first impressions of Monday night opponent Vanderbilt: “I always thought they had pretty cool colors.”
UVa junior Mike Papi, whose lunging grab of a foul pop-up Saturday earned him the No. 4 spot in ESPN’s plays of the day, had not played first base until this year — not even in high school, according to his dad.
Papi moved from the outfield to first base prior to this season, but later returned to the outfield for 19 games after Derek Fisher underwent hand surgery.
Vanderbilt is within sight of the second national championship in the history of its athletic program. The first came in 2007, when the Commodores won the NCAA women’s bowling title. … Virginia has a total of 20 national championships, including 11 combined by men’s soccer (six) and men’s lacrosse (five).
Just across 10th Street from TD Ameritrade Park, the CenturyLink Center was the latest sellout Monday night on the Moonshine Jungle Tour, including headliner Bruno Mars, a two-time Grammy Award winner who performed at the Super Bowl earlier this year.
Virginia and Vanderbilt had played twice before Monday, with the games separated by 112 years. Both games were in Charlottesville, an 1892 affair won by the Commodores 5-4 and a 2004 regional won by Vanderbilt 7-3.
UVa’s designated hitter that day was Tom Hagan from Roanoke’s Cave Spring High School. The Cavaliers’ starting pitcher in that game was Chris Gale, son of ex-big leaguer Rich Gale.