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A Cinderella team, a ninth-inning rally and a Blaze Brothers blast: Oral Roberts won’t slow down – UnlistedNews

OMAHA, Neb. — About two and a half months ago, an Arizona man bet $25 on Oral Roberts to win the Men’s College World Series. It didn’t seem like the wisest bet; Oral Roberts came into the 2023 season needing to replace his entire starting rotation, he welcomed 17 new players and hadn’t been to the MCWS since 1978. But Tom Breeze had a hunch about the Golden Eagles.

His nephew, Holden Breeze, plays third base for Oral Roberts.

“They’re very confident,” Tom Breeze said Friday morning as about 100 people gathered on the cobblestone walkway outside the downtown Omaha Hyatt to send off the team ahead of the MCWS opener. “I think they’re going into this thinking they can win. They’re playing for each other. They don’t want to let each other down.”

Before Friday afternoon, the number of Oral Roberts believers may have been limited to the Summit League watchers, the 32-member team, the coaches, and the 100 or so people outside the Hyatt.

Not anymore. Not after Blaze Brothers’ three-run homer in the top of the ninth lifted Oral Roberts to a 6-5 victory over TCU.

Brothers doesn’t just adopt the Cinderella label of the Golden Eagles. He embodies it: a fifth-year senior who moved from junior college to Division II baseball to ORU last fall. Brothers said one of the reasons the team has clicked so well is because many of its players have taken bland paths similar to Omaha.

Oral Roberts is a four seed, the lowest to reach the MCWS in 11 years. He lost two All-America pitchers in the 2022 MLB draft and had to replace half of his starting position players.

The disparities between the two teams that played on Friday were remarkable. TCU, a blueblood in college baseball, spent about $34,000 per player last year. Oral Roberts spent about a quarter of that, about $8,700 per player, according to figures from the US Department of Education.

The Golden Eagles haven’t been on the same stage as TCU either, as the Horned Frogs have made six trips to Omaha since 2010.

But in 2023, Oral Roberts has been just as primed for the big moments this postseason, coming back from eight runs to beat Washington in the regionals; foiling elimination twice at the Oregon super regional.

“His fans were crazy,” Brothers said of the Eugene crowd. “They were singing to us and it felt like we were at a football game and we were third on every pitch.”

But nothing compared to preparing for Friday’s game in Omaha.

On the short bus ride to the stadium on Friday morning, their driver, Derrel Neufeld, could sense that they were a little nervous.

“They’re going to see a crowd they’ve probably never played in front of before, this big,” Neufeld said. “But they’re very laid back. They talked to each other. They’re very good as a group. And the coach is wonderful at keeping them where they need to be, as far as their heads are concerned. A good place.” “

Coach Ryan Folmar did a lot of chemistry-building exercises in those early fall practices, including a swim and diving meet that “gets a little weird sometimes,” he said. But what they really needed, he said, was to get on the field and play together.

“One of the most important things,” Folmar said, “is to figure out how everyone will react when adversity comes.”

One thing is certain: when things are going well, or not so well, the Golden Eagles will express their emotions. They are going to hug him.

On Friday morning, while waiting for a police escort, the team stopped to hug some of their supporters in the crowd. Not the quick hugs you give an acquaintance; long and meaningful hugs.

Around the middle of the season, the Brothers said, one of his teammates, Dylan Wipperman, came across an old study that helped inspire them to express their affection for each other.

“It was like, the team that touches the most, hugs, high fives, like pats on the butt, everything like that … (wins),” Brothers said. “So we pride ourselves on always cheering each other on, cheering each other on, high fives, hugging each other, no matter what.”

Folmar said that even with all the uncertainty in their schedule at the start of the season, he fully believed they could get to Omaha and move on. However, he always thought so.

But if the Golden Eagles keep winning, they won’t be underdogs for much longer. And at least one fan will have a substantial windfall to celebrate. Tom Breeze said the odds were so high when he placed the bet last spring that he would be due $12,500 if Oral Roberts lifts the national championship trophy next week.

None of the Golden Eagles are thinking that far yet. They are too busy enjoying each other.

“Years after this, we’ll still be hanging out together,” Brothers said. “I guarantee it. Because this group of guys is unlike any other team I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve never clicked with guys like this before, like right away. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just something special. Meant to be.”


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcus
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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