Colin Walsh always wanted to go to college at Stanford, and he always wanted to play baseball for the Cardinals. His ambition never wavered, and his loyalty never shifted, even when he was in high school and the school’s perennially successful baseball team suffered a five-year drought without making it to the College World Series.
Walsh, a 2007 graduate of The Bishop’s School, landed in Palo Alto on a baseball scholarship, and in his freshman season has helped the Cardinals get back to the top of the college baseball world. Stanford pulled off a surprising two-game sweep of Cal State Fullerton in the schools’ super regional last weekend and became one of eight teams to advance to the College World Series, which starts this week.
“This has always been a dream of mine,” Walsh said. “I remember watching them go five straight times from 1999-2003, and one of my real good friends was a part of that, so I’ve always wanted to go.
“Before the season, we were picked to finish seventh in the Pac-10, so we’re really surprising some people. That just made it that much sweeter to get there.”
The College World Series starts Saturday, June 14 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. The double-elimination tournament will be pared down to two teams by June 20 or 21, with the two remaining schools to play for the championship in a best two-out-of-three series June 23-25.
Stanford’s first game is scheduled for June 14 at 11 a.m. All games from the College World Series will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.
Walsh, a middle infielder who played shortstop at Bishop’s, didn’t win a job immediately as a starter for the Cardinal, but has played in 31 games and started nine this season. He enters the College World Series batting .317 with four doubles, seven RBIs and 17 runs scored in 63 at-bats.
His main role throughout the season has been as a pinch hitter or late-innings defensive replacement, and he has performed capably in that role. Last Saturday, though, he was called on to start when second baseman Cord Phelps suffered a bout of food poisoning, and Walsh went 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored as Stanford knocked off Fullerton, 8-5, to clinch its spot in the College World Series.
“I went 3-for-18 to start out, but eventually started to do better and better,” Walsh said. “I got to start for three games against Cal, and when Cord got real sick against Fullerton, I got to play.
“If it was my first start of the season, it might have been a little bit different, but the fact that I’ve gotten some playing time in big games … it was definitely a big situation, but having some experience helped a lot. And, it’s baseball - it doesn’t matter where you play, it’s always the same game.”
Even as a freshman playing in the biggest game of his life - one that was televised on ESPN - Walsh stayed calm and helped the Titans clinch. That wasn’t surprising in the least to his brother, who grew up playing alongside him and also starred at Bishop’s before going on to his own college career.
Walsh’s older brother, Brendan Walsh, is a sophomore outfielder on a Johns Hopkins team that advanced to the national championship game at the NCAA Division III College World Series in May. Walsh batted .298 with 13 RBIs in 24 games (eight starts) for the Blue Jays this season.
“Colin and I talked about it before the season started, and we both knew we had good teams, so we said, ‘Let’s go out and both win rings this year,’ ” Brendan Walsh said.
“We came up just short, but Colin’s team has a chance. I’m really proud of what he’s done. He has worked really hard at it - he has always been the type of kid who was the first player at practice and the last one to leave. He deserves it.”
The Cardinals were expected to arrive at Rosenblatt Stadium on Thursday for two days of workouts before the Series begins.
Colin Walsh said he’ll do his best to adjust to his surroundings in Omaha quickly. He said he experienced playing in stadiums filled with large, hostile crowds at Texas and Fullerton this season, so he hopes that has prepared him. It won’t hurt that the crowds won’t be as one-sided as in Austin and Orange County.
“Playing in front of 25,000 fans is going to be a new experience, but a good one,” Walsh said. “I’m glad I’m getting it out of the way during my freshman year, so hopefully if we get back the next few years, it will be a lot easier.”