June 22, 2013 7:21:33 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
OMAHA, Neb. -- Whether it is by bus, plane or automobile, the Mississippi State University baseball team needs you in Omaha.
MSU (51-18) will face UCLA (47-17) in the College World Series national championship series, beginning at 7 p.m. Monday (ESPN) at TD Ameritrade Park. The best-of-three series resumes at 7 p.m. Tuesday. A third game, if necessary, will be played Wednesday at 7 p.m..
The Bulldogs will be playing for their first national championship in a team sport. Despite having played in eight previous College World Series, the Bulldogs had never made it this far. That changed Friday afternoon when MSU qualified for the championship series with a 4-1 win over No. 3 national seed Oregon State University.
"We want the largest crowd possible," said former MSU Student Association President Rhett Hobart, who has helped with marketing this season for the MSU baseball program. "This is something that has never been done before, so we want as many of our people as possible in attendance."
When the College World Series started eight days ago, a crowd of about 4,000 Bulldogs were believed to be in attendance. Despite a fifth-place finish in the Southeastern Conference in the regular season, the Bulldogs caught fire in the postseason, winning eight of their nine games -- including an NCAA Regional in Starkville and a Super Regional in Charlottesville, Va., -- to earn a spot in the eight-team College World Series.
Bulldog nation responded with many last-minute plans to arrive in Omaha prior to the tournament's opening game last Saturday.
MSU won three games over the next seven days to earn a spot as one of the two finalists. As soon as Friday's game concluded, Bulldog administration and baseball players went to Twitter and Facebook to summons the masses.
"I expect a turnout like they have never seen before here," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "Our fans are hungry. They know this team is in position to make history."
Conservative estimates predict around 10,000 or so Bulldogs will attend this week's national championship series. Typically, the national championship series draws in excess of the stadium capacity of 24,000. In MSU's three CWS games, the crowds were 24,473, 25,260 and 18,868.
The word from both MSU administration and tournament officials is simple: Please come, we will find a spot for you.
For the championship series, a limited number of box seats remain. These may be purchased only through the TD Ameritrade Park box office, beginning at 10 a.m. each day. Prices range from $34 to $36 per ticket, with a transaction limit of four tickets.
General admission tickets may be purchased through the box office for $20 each. These tickets are good for first-come, first-serve seating in the outfield areas of the park. Gates for outfield seating open two hours prior to first pitch. However, fans are encouraged to arrive at the park early for a chance to get in line for better seating.
Both reserved seats and general admission seating is also available through the NCAA official web site's Ticket Exchange, as well as through third-party sites such as www.tickets-center.com and www.stubhub.com. Complete information about the ballpark and latest ticket availability may be found on the NCAA web site at www.ncaasports.com. Click on any of the College World Series logos.
"There is always a tremendous demand for tickets for the championship series," College World Series ticket assistant Susan Wilson said. "We won't turn anyone away. We will find a way to make sure everybody is taken care of and has an enjoyable experience."
The fortunate news for last-minute travelers it that hotel rates have dropped considerably as the tournament enters its second week. Some of the up-scale hotel rooms in the $250-$300 range may rent for less than $150 per night. The trickle-down effect is also in place with lower rates for the economy chain hotels as well.
Rooms are still available at the MSU team hotel, the Double Tree by Hilton, located on Dodge Street. Rates there start at $359 per night.
MSU athletic department employees have been encouraged to attend the championship series. Many from the department have been in Omaha now for more than a week. The official MSU baseball twitter account (@mstateBB) has been tweeting relentlessly photos of fans as they have loaded up and started the 14-hour drive over the weekend. One student even took to Twitter to ask Stricklin for some relief from summer school classes this week.
Back in Starkville, the buzz is also high. Shaking up the usual laziness of summer on the MSU campus, the community is making plans for various watch parties around the city. Buffalo Wild Wings has been proclaimed as the university's official watch party destination, with events there set to start around 6 p.m. Monday.
All in all, the excitement is everywhere, as MSU stands just two wins away from a first-ever championship. Still, the Bulldogs want as many people as possible inside the stadium Monday night.
"Two more wins," said MSU shortstop Adam Frazier via Twitter. "Pack the stadium with Maroon and White. We need you here."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter