In the top of the fourth inning, with one on and one out, the rain returned.
Arkansas and Texas Tech played on, but fans around TD Ameritrade Park sprung to action. They jumped from seats into the aisles, rushing to safety under the overhanging concourse. Others hastily threw on clear or blue ponchos; some flicked an umbrella as strike two was called.
Wet socks, white tarps and killing time have been plentiful at this year’s College World Series, the most rain-delayed CWS of the past 15 years.
Rain and lightning have delayed the first nine games 660 total minutes in five days. That is 11 hours total, an average of more than two hours per day. That far exceeds the yearly average since 2004, which is 159 delayed minutes for the entire series, or a little more than 2.5 hours per year.
This year’s CWS has had more halted play for wet or dangerous conditions than the past seven College World Series combined. Through Wednesday afternoon, Omaha had received more than 3 inches of rain since Sunday.
“It’s just something you’ve got to deal with, with the game of baseball,” Texas Tech pitcher Davis Martin said.
Seems like everyone has had to deal with it this week. The “fun” kicked off Sunday with Game 3 between Texas and Arkansas when rain and lightning delayed Game 2 hours, 49 minutes. Game 5 between Oregon State and Washington on Monday really messed up the schedule for the week, with a 4:31 delay. That marathon of rain pushed the North Carolina-Mississippi State winners bracket game from Monday night to Tuesday morning. Then, on Wednesday, a rescheduled Arkansas-Texas Tech game was delayed 3:30 because of morning showers.
Stuck in the locker rooms while Omaha gets a shower, teams have had to find ways to keep busy.
Oregon State and Texas Tech both spent time playing their favorite game, “Mafia.”
“You got a Mafia. You got a sheriff. And then you have a doctor,” explained Oregon State first baseman Tyler Malone. “So the mafia chooses who they want to kill or take out of the town. And the sheriffs try to determine who was in the mafia, and then the doctor tries to save and then there’s an open discussion. So it gets pretty heated. It’s pretty fun.”
During one weather delay this week, Oregon State freshman Joe Casey did a “30 bubble gum piece challenge” and stuffed 30 pieces of bubble gum in his mouth.
“Looked like a chipmunk,” designated hitter Kyle Nobach said.
Mississippi State and its police escort bussed to TD Ameritrade Park twice Monday afternoon, and twice the team returned to its hotel without playing.
While waiting around in the locker room before heading back, a game of “Hangman” broke out on the whiteboard inside the Bulldog locker room. One winning word put up by senior reliever Blake Smith was “O-M-E-H-A-W,” part of an inside joke among the players on how they pronounce the name of Nebraska’s largest city.
North Carolina, meanwhile, made one trip to the ballpark Monday evening before learning of its postponed game. Second baseman Zack Gahagan said the team came prepared with multiple gaming systems to continue a season-long battle of “Fortnite.”
Since 2004, five College World Series had no weather delays, including in 2017. The only year that comes close to the 2018 figure of 11 hours is 2010, when fans had to wait through nearly seven hours of delays. But even so, most of that came on one day, when play was delayed for six hours.
“We gotta take what we get with the weather,” Texas Tech second basemen Brian Klein said. “We’ve got to be ready to go if it’s 1 in the morning or if we’re playing at 10 a.m.”
Somewhat remarkably, the CWS remains on schedule. Just one game is scheduled for Thursday: Florida vs. Texas Tech.
But the forecast isn’t quite clear yet. Showers are on the radar for Thursday, too.