After UCLA won the College World Series last week, Bruins fans left happy and cheering. But Omaha fans may have felt a little empty inside. Or, at least, the ones in the outfield stands.
Only three home runs were hit throughout the CWS, but Wednesday's College Home Run Derby aims to rectify the power outage at TD Ameritrade Park.
Eight hitters from across the country — six from the East Coast — plan to dent some bleachers starting at 7:30 p.m., regardless of the warning-track magnet that TD Ameritrade Park has become.
“I keep hearing from all the guys that it's like a dead zone, and no one hits home runs there,” said Georgia Tech's Matt Gonzalez, who had three home runs this season. “But I think that's pretty cool because it makes it that much harder.”
Leading the charge is Louisiana-Lafayette's Caleb Adams, who had 16 homers this season. Also competing are The Citadel's Bo Thompson (14 home runs), South Carolina's Joey Pankake (11), Rice's Michael Aquino (nine), Clemson's Garrett Boulware (eight), Virginia's Kenny Towns (seven) and Florida State's DJ Stewart (five).
“All of them are great ballplayers,” Towns said. “I know all have a couple of home runs, so I think it'll be tough to beat anyone.”
Gonzalez and Towns said despite it being a batting-practice environment, they aren't changing their approach at the plate.
“When you are trying to hit it hard, you have to make sure to take the same swing that you normally would. You can't get long,” Towns said. “The launch angle is the only thing you have to worry about.”
Towns and Gonzalez are two of the four players from the Atlantic Coast Conference set to compete. While they are fierce rivals during the regular season, a little bit of conference support may be in order if one of the guys from outside the ACC is posting some good numbers.
“Definitely, if the ACC can come out with the win, that would be awesome,” Gonzalez said.
Even with the title at stake, the players are going to try to soak in the experience.
“I just want to enjoy the experience, check the ballpark and have some fun down there,” Towns said. “I'm really looking forward to it.”