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NOTEBOOK / MIKE DiGIOVANNA : Some Familiar Faces from Miami Infielder’s Past Turning Up in Omaha

It’s not exactly Twilight Zone material, but it is kind of eerie.

Miami utility infielder Greg Coleman looks around the College World Series, and there is Cal State Fullerton, the first college team he played for, and there is Oklahoma Coach Larry Cochell, who recruited him to Fullerton from Servite High School. And there is Titan third baseman Phil Nevin and Sooner catcher Kevin Schula, old Little League teammates.

“It seems like deja vu,” said Coleman, whose Hurricanes will play Fullerton today in a second-round, winners-bracket game. “But it’s good to see old friends after being so far away in Miami.”

Had things gone as planned for Coleman, he and Nevin would have been teammates instead of adversaries today. But when he did more sitting than hitting in his freshman year at Fullerton (1989) and Cochell, then the Titan coach, redshirted him and suggested he transfer to a community college to gain experience, Coleman decided to go in another direction.

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East.

Miami assistant Turtle Thomas was on a recruiting trip in the summer of 1989 and noticed Coleman playing on an American Legion team in Fullerton. When he heard Coleman wanted to transfer, he offered Coleman a scholarship, and off went the Placentia resident.

After spending 1990 as a platoon player, Coleman, a 1988 Servite graduate, got a break in 1991 when Hurricane outfielders Geno DiMare and Frank Mora collided and were injured in the second game of the season. Coleman started some 30 games as an outfielder and finished the season with a .290 average and 33 runs batted in.

He has played in 46 games this season, most of them in the infield, batting .272 with six doubles and 19 RBIs. Though the junior hasn’t been a regular starter, he has enjoyed playing in one of the nation’s premier college baseball programs.

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“At Fullerton, the fans were mostly parents, girlfriends and friends, but in Miami we’re the only ticket in town,” Coleman said. “We get 3,000-7,000 fans a game. It’s a great experience, and all in all, I’m happy with the move.”

What’s up socks? For those who saw Cal State Fullerton on ESPN Friday night and were wondering why the Titans wear their bright blue socks so high--they look like they belong in a 1927 newsreel, with their stirrups low around the ankles and pants pulled up near the knees--it’s a superstitious gesture.

Fullerton began wearing its socks like that in the last regular-season game against San Jose State and hasn’t lost since.

“When you get on a roll, you stay with it,” Fullerton catcher Jason Moler said. “I think they look good. People either love them or hate them, but we’re not out there making a fashion statement.”

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Among the other Titan superstitions: Tim Murphy, Fullerton baseball sports information director, wears a major league baseball cap whenever Dan Naulty pitches, putting it on during the national anthem and taking it off when Naulty is pulled from the game.

Naulty is 4-0, including Friday’s victory over Florida State, when Murphy wears the cap.

Baseball players aren’t the only superstitious ones. Baseball secretary Linda Shimamoto noticed the Titans are staying on the same floor (third) of the same Omaha hotel (Marriott) they stayed in during the 1984 College World Series, which Fullerton won.

“I didn’t request it, but it must be an omen,” said Shimamoto, who coordinates the Titans’ travel plans. “It’s working so far, right?”

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Medical chart: Nevin, who suffered a rib injury earlier in the week and played Friday night’s game in pain, said he was feeling much better Saturday morning. Nevin didn’t practice and spent the day relaxing and watching the other series games.

Looking ahead: Fullerton will have a difficult nonconference schedule next season. The Titans will travel to Texas for a three-game series and to Minnesota to play in the Pillsbury Classic in the Metrodome.

Florida State and Stanford will travel to Fullerton to play the Titans, and Fullerton will again play a three-game series at Arizona.

Tidbits: With left-hander Jeff Alkire scheduled to pitch for Miami tonight, the Titans, who are 8-1 against left-handed starters this season, probably will start right-handed hitting Frank Herman in center field and move center fielder Chris Powell to designated hitter. Herman homered in a South I Region victory over Tulane. . . . Several Fullerton players spent Saturday afternoon visiting the Omaha orphanage known as Boys Town, a national historic landmark featuring Father Flanagan’s historic house and shrine. . . . Friday’s 7-2 victory over Florida State ended a four-game College World Series losing streak for the Titans, who hadn’t won in Omaha since 1988.

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