MCWS 2023 – Blaze Brothers delivers latest dose of magic for Oral Roberts’ Cinderella season

Elizabeth MerrillESPN Lead WriterJun 17, 2023 12:34 am ET5 minute read

Blaze Brothers’ Clutch HR puts Oral Roberts ahead in 9th place

Blaze Brothers hit a triple home run to give Oral Roberts a 6-5 lead.

OMAHA, Neb. — About two and a half months ago, an Arizona man placed a $25 bet on Oral Roberts to win the Men’s College World Series. It didn’t seem like the smartest bet; Oral Roberts had to replace his entire starting lineup for the 2023 season, welcomed 17 new players and had not been with the MCWS since 1978. But Tom Breeze knew about the Golden Eagles.

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

“They’re really confident,” Tom Breeze said Friday morning as about 100 people gathered on the cobblestone street in front of the downtown Omaha Hyatt to bid the team farewell ahead of the MCWS opener. “I think they go into it thinking they can win. They play for each other. They don’t want to let each other down.”

Prior to Friday afternoon, Oral Roberts worshipers may have been limited to Summit League observers, the 32 members of the team, the coaches and the 100 or so people outside the Hyatt.

No longer. Not after Blaze Brothers’ three-run home run early in the ninth inning gave Oral Roberts a 6-5 win over TCU.

Brothers not only accept the Golden Eagles’ Cinderella label. He embodies it — a fifth-grader who transferred from junior college to Division II baseball at ORU last fall. Brothers said one of the reasons the team fitted so well was because many of its players took similar, nondescript routes to Omaha.

Oral Roberts is a fourth-place finisher, the lowest to make the MCWS in 11 years. It lost two All-America pitchers to the 2022 MLB draft and had to replace half of its starting players.

The differences between the two teams playing on Friday were striking. 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 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 was so well placed in big moments this postseason that he bounced back eight runs down to beat Washington in regionals; He twice thwarted eliminations in the Oregon Super Regional.

“Their fans were crazy,” the Brothers said of the Eugene audience. “We were cheered on and it felt like we were in a football game and it was third place on every pitch.”

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

Oral Roberts has only appeared in 29 NCAA tournaments and won just three regional tournaments, including this year.AP Photo/John Peterson

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

“They’re going to see such a large audience that they’ve probably never played to,” Neufeld said. “But they are very relaxed. They talked to each other. They are very good as a group. And the coach is just wonderful at keeping them where they need to be in terms of their heads. A good place.”

Coach Ryan Folmar did a lot of chemistry-building drills in those first fall practices, including a swim and dive competition that “gets a little weird at times,” he said. But what they really needed, he said, was just to get on the field and play together.

“One of the greatest things,” Folmar said, “is figuring out how everyone is going to react when disaster strikes.”

One thing is for sure, whether things go well or not, the Golden Eagles will express their feelings. You will embrace it.

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

About midway through the season, Brothers said, one of his teammates, Dylan Wipperman, came across an old study that inspired them to express their affection for one another.

“It was like the team that touches the most,” the brothers said, “hugs, high-fives, slaps each other on the butt, everything like that… (wins). That’s why we pride ourselves on always picking everyone. “Cheering each other up, cheering each other on, giving high fives, hugging each other no matter what.”

Folmar said that despite all the uncertainty in his program early in the season, he was adamant they could reach Omaha and progress. He always thought so though.

But if the Golden Eagles keep winning, they won’t be underdogs for much longer. And at least one fan will have a significant stroke of luck to celebrate. When Tom Breeze placed the bet last spring, the odds were such that he would be due $12,500 if Oral Roberts lifted the national championship trophy next week.

None of the Golden Eagles thinks that far. They’re too busy enjoying each other.

“Years later, we will still spend time together,” Brothers said. “I guarantee that. Because this squad is unlike any other team I’ve been a part of.’ ‘I’ve never bonded with guys like that before, it was so good right off the bat.’ I don’t know. Maybe it’s just something special. Meant to be.”


Read  The Latest On Prince Harry And Meghan Markle's Royal Eviction Drama: 'There's Been A Bit Of Blowback

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button