According to D3baseball.com, Marietta College is the favorite to win a record-setting fifth World Series when play begins Friday at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grande Chute, Wisc., which is located to nearby Appleton.
Well, it's almost a no-brainer.
But as MC skipper Brian Brewer has often said, "It's baseball and it's a funny game."
Yes, anything is possible, and you just know that the Etta Express is taking no team lightly or for granted.
Still, the Pioneers, going into WS competition, are No. 1-ranked in NCAA Division III with a 42-3 overall record and the owner of an 18-game winning streak. No. 9 Chapman (Calif.) and No. 3 Kean (N.J.) are the only other top-10 ranked teams in the eight-school field.
Wisconsin-Whitewater, which should have a large fan base at the stadium, is No. 12.
And, then, the drop-off is significant. Salisbury (Md.) University, MC's opponent at 2:15 p.m. Friday, is No. 27; Western New England (Mass.) is No. 18; Keystone (Pa.), No. 25; and Buena Vista (Ia.), unranked.
Keystone and Western New England are both making its first appearance and are also its conference's first representative in the World Series.
Thing is, though, has Marietta already played and eliminated the second best team in the nation in Heidelberg University?
Heidelberg, which was a pre-season No. 1 pick in the poll, finished No. 10. The Student Princes were the last school to defeat Marietta, 8-6 way back in Tiffin on April 16. They then proceeded to get swept by the Pioneers in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament and the ensuing Mideast Regional, both of which were held at MC's home field at Don Schaly Stadium.
"I thought they (Heidelberg) were the second best team in the tournament," said Brewer after the Pioneers edged the Student Princes 2-1 in the regional championship game to clinch a WS berth. "But that doesn't always mean they're going to get there."
To play Marietta in the regional tilt, Heidelberg had to defeat, and did 16-6, Case Western Reserve University in a preceding elimination game.
"I was rooting for (Heidelberg) in a sense, because they're a conference school, and we want the OAC to do well," Brewer said. "But I was rooting against them a little bit, too, because they would be the most difficult to beat. And, that's no disrespect towards any of the other teams. It was a very strong field."
"I thought we were the best team in the (Mideast Regional) tournament," the coach continued, "but that doesn't necessarily always mean you're going to win it."
No doubt, Brewer and the Pioneers have similar feelings about the World Series.
MC will know more about its situation, of course, after playing Salisbury, which figures to be a very dangerous opponent. Like the Pioneers, the Sea Gulls have some momentum, having won 12 of their last 13 games, including running the table after losing their first regional game.
Better fasten your seat belts, Pioneer fans, and enjoy the World Series ride.
You just know the Etta Express is.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org