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Prepare for a ‘thicc’ glass of ‘SonnyDi’

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Note to Omaha: Prepare for a ‘thicc’ glass of ‘SonnyDi’

By Joseph Goodman | jgoodman@al.com
6-7 minutes

Auburn had the toughest draw of all the eight teams playing on the road in the super regional round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

No shot, I thought. It was a good run.

Oregon State’s strong pitching staff lived up to its excellent reputation, too. Those guys were masterful for three games. Everything was tilted in favor of Oregon State’s hurlers. They had the home crowd. They even had the crisp, unseasonably cool weather. The heat index was over 100 degrees here in Alabama on Monday, but fans were wearing beanies on their heads in Corvallis, Oregon.

Auburn was out of its element and it showed in games two and three. By that point, Oregon State pretty much had Auburn figured out. The Tigers were out-hit 17-8 in those games.

The only problem for Oregon State was this. They didn’t know what to think of “Thicc King” Sonny Dichiara.

Oregon State didn’t respect the best hitter in the country. That cost them. DiChiara’s two-run homer in Game 3 was the difference in Auburn’s 4-3 victory.

RELATED: Watch Auburn celebrate its victory against Oregon State

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OSU had all the advantages, but Auburn had DiChiara. The Beavers were either too proud or too cocky to respect that fact. Huge mistake, and now Auburn is going to the College Baseball World Series on the bat of SonnyDi and a bullpen made of nails.

Oregon State chose to pitch to the “Thicc King” throughout the best-of-three series. Oregon State chose poorly. After two homers against the Beavers, Dichiara has six home runs in his last eight games. He’s Auburn’s Babe Ruth at this point in the fairytale, and DiChiara is going to be the brightest star in Omaha. Book that. If Auburn somehow wins it all, Omaha will permanently name a milkshake “SonnyDi” after Auburn’s slugger.

Milkshakes are the big thing at the College Baseball World Series. It’s a great tradition. If you’re going to Omaha, then I recommend drinking no fewer than two milkshakes a day. Rain delays require milkshakes, too, so the potential is there for milkshakes at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

At the very least, Auburn fans need to drink a milkshake for every home run off the bat of DiChiara.

Auburn is joined by three teams from the SEC West in the College Baseball World Series. The others are Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Ole Miss advanced against Southern Miss. Arkansas defeated North Carolina with a dramatic walk-off victory. Texas A&M is in the College Baseball World Series after knocking off Louisville.

Future SEC teams Texas and Oklahoma are also in the field. Not going to Omaha: Tennessee. The Vols, who tempted the baseball gods all season with their swaggering bravado, were upset by Notre Dame. Tennessee was the top-ranked team in the country, but baseball has a way of punishing teams like that. It rewards the mentally tough more often than it does the outwardly obnoxious.

It’s not that Notre Dame was a better team than Tennessee. It’s just that Tennessee thought it was bigger than the game.

That’s why I cringed a little when the SEC social media team referred to Omaha as “Hoover West” on Monday night. Easy there, SEC. Don’t put a curse on a good thing.

The brackets for the College Baseball World Series go like this. In bracket one it’s Texas, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. In bracket two, Auburn, Arkansas and Ole Miss are joined by Stanford, the only Pac-12 team in the field. It’s a double-elimination tournament followed by a best-of-three championship series.

The College Baseball World Series is heaven for lovers of long days at the ballpark. Auburn begins the eight-team tournament against Ole Miss at 6 p.m. on Saturday. This is Auburn’s sixth trip to the College Baseball World Series, but the Tigers have never won it. Maybe this team of underdogs is the group to do it.

“We’re going to play to the best of our ability and live it up,” DiChiara said.

It’s easy to root for DiChiara and these Auburn Tigers. They’re humble guys, and that work-a-day mentality is why they’re going to Omaha and a team like Tennessee is not. Baseball always humbles you. That’s the Golden Rule of this game again and again and again. Auburn understood it was going to take a touch of humility to take down mighty Oregon State.

When the shift was on against DiChiara in Game 3, he smartly hit it where they weren’t and took his base. When a chance for a safety squeeze presented itself earlier in the game, Auburn coach Butch Thompson didn’t hesitate in making the right call.

Oregon State didn’t want to back down for anyone, especially DiChiara. Bad call. DiChiara humbled the Beavs.

DiChiara played baseball for Hoover High and then Samford. He loves Birmingham, and he’s happy to be representing so many people on the big stage. He’s hitting .392 after the super regional and has 22 home runs. DiChiara leads the country in walks with 68, and on-base percentage at .560. His slugging percentage is a monstrous .809.

Auburn can only hope that teams in Omaha make the same mistake as Oregon State and underestimate DiChiara’s talent.

This is Auburn’s second trip to the College Baseball World Series in three years, but no one was expecting it outside of the Tigers’ dugout. DiChiara played baseball at Samford for three seasons before transferring to Auburn. The Tigers were picked last in the SEC West this preseason, and it’s not hard to figure out why they’ve outperformed expectations. DiChiara’s bat has carried the team this postseason.

How does it feel to be in this position?

“It’s indescribable,” DiChiara said. “It’s life-changing for sure.”

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the making of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team’”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.

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