Gresham, Ore. – Omaha.
The word alone is sacred to college baseball players and fans, serving as the ultimate destination for anyone who has played or followed the sport. But while hundreds of teams begin their season each February with dreams of making it to Omaha for the College World Series, only a lucky eight actually get the opportunity once the postseason winds to a close in June.
As fate would have it, Gresham GreyWolves outfielder Josh Adams (UC Santa Barbara) was on one of those eight teams who made the pilgrimage to Nebraska last month.
“I think everyone should experience that once in their life,” says Adams. “The atmosphere and everything around it – that’s what people dream about. I understand why everyone pushes so hard to get there every year because it is absolutely the most amazing thing in the world.”
Adams’ Gauchos weren’t exactly the likeliest of teams to make it all the way to the CWS. A third-place finish in the Big West sent them packing for regional play, but Adams and company soon caught fire.
A 14-inning victory over Washington to open the Nashville Regional was soon followed by back-to-back wins against Xavier, sending the club through to Super Regional play without so much as a loss. They then continued their hot play in a best-of-three series at Louisville (with the winner advancing to Omaha), knocking off the Cardinals in the first game before stunning the No. 2 national seed with a walk-off grand slam one day later.
“It was pretty incredible,” Adams says of the walk-off grand slam. “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
UC Santa Barbara ended up playing three games in Omaha, finishing with a 1-2 record against the likes of Oklahoma State, Miami (Florida), and Arizona. Adams saw the field in two of those contests, including a start in the team’s CWS opener against the Cowboys.
Not long after his club was finally eliminated from the NCAA Tournament did Adams join Gresham. His first game with the GreyWolves came on June 29 at Kitsap, and while it took him about the three contests to get used to life in the West Coast League, the learning curve wasn’t a steep one for the Elk Grove, California product.
He quickly found his swing, getting at least one base hit in every game since the Fourth of July. Adams is now fourth on the team in batting average with a .280 clip and first on the team in home runs.
“We (UCSB) were playing for a long time,” said Adams when asked about the adjustment to summer league ball. “It took me some time to adjust to the wood bat and get going, but I eventually found my groove. My rhythm is back and now I’m really liking my swing.”
Whether it be coincidental or not, Gresham’s fortunes as a team started to change once Adams rolled into town. Justin Barchus’ club entered that game against the BlueJackets with a record of 9-13, and they have since won nine of their past 14 ballgames. The run has pushed the GreyWolves’ record back to .500 and into a tie for first place in the South Division’s second half standings.
“We have really turned it around,” Adams says. “The biggest thing I see is that we are having fun. My first game here, we were struggling and I didn’t really see a lot of guys having a good time. But now we are winning and having a blast, so we’d like to keep that up.”
As one of the few juniors on the team, grouped with his solid spring season and Omaha experience, Adams has been able to serve as a leader for Gresham despite arriving so late. It is a role that the outfielder is not taking lightly.
“I played a solid amount this year and a lot of these guys didn’t play as much,” says Adams. “I’m just trying to do my best to make them better. I want them to be as good as me and I want to be as good as them.”
If the last three weeks have been any indication, Adams and the rest of the GreyWolves have turned a major corner. They are playing loose, having a good time, and most importantly – winning games. Should the trend continue, Gresham might find itself playing deep into the WCL playoffs next month.
That experience shouldn’t be anything new for Adams.