O'Brien eyeing strong CWS run

Michael Christopher
Sports Editor

Maiden High School baseball fans will hear a familiar sound emitting from the sixth-national seeded University of Tar Heel baseball team's dugout.

The sounds of a rally cry -- Hount. And Not Enough Meat.

UNC's baseball team has taken these phrases and made their own personal motivation in hopes of winning its first College World Series title in the school's history.

Former Maiden High baseball standout Caden O'Brien is responsible for one of those cries. The word hount, which does not sound like it is spelled, has been something the freshmen UNC pitcher has gotten his teammates to buy into.

But what exactly does it mean?
"Hount is I don't know, it just kind of started up probably two or three years ago with Caden's group. It just really started out as an attention-grabber type of thing. And then kids started doing it and everybody started doing it," Maiden High School baseball coach David Williams said. "It became like our battle cry like it's time to go. It's go time. Let's buckle down and get the job done type-of-thing. It's kind of another way of saying 'Let's go, let's get this thing done.'"

O'Brien sees the phrase differently.
"Back in high school our coach David Williams whenever we'd go through a practice or something we'd do hount, which kind of meant come here," the UNC left-hander said. "I started kind of making fun of it and saying it. Then we started saying it during the games when people would hit. And then everybody on the team would do it. It was pretty cool."

Neither knows how the phrase originated but it's something that has brought a special meaning to both, and now perhaps Tar Heel nation.
"It's like a bunch of combined words thrown into one syllable. I can hear him in the dugout then I hear the rest of the team doing it too at Chapel Hill at the Super Regional," Williams said. "It's come from Maiden there's no doubt. You'll never hear it anywhere else. It's something that we've grown to do. We do it now. It's stayed with our program ever since we started that little chant."

It hasn't been the only thing motivating the Tar Heels this season.
"I don't know if we've had any meaningful quotes but our thing all year has been the attitude that we've got to play with a chip on our shoulder. People don't really think we're as good as we are and we have to prove that to them," O'Brien said. "It kind of goes off I guess we've been saying ever since we started playoffs, we got shirts that said, 'not enough meat.' And that's because whenever during the seeding ceremony when they were picking the regionals and got the sixth national seed one the guys that was doing the show kind of said we didn't have enough meat on our bones to be able to have a national seed at all. I think that put a chip on our shoulders and so we made those shirts and kind of embraced it. And that's just kind of how we keep that mentality throughout the playoffs."

Williams, who went to watch his former prep star at the Super Regionals in Chapel Hill last week, said he feels the kind of year O'Brien is having is special.
"I honestly feel like it's a once-in-a-lifetime deal," the Blue Devils coach said. "Caden is a rare talent and his work ethic is extremely rare. It's paying off for him and that's the most exciting thing for me. It's easy for me to watch but it's also a lesson to some of our kids with the program now. This kid was in your shoes one day and he worked his butt off, he doesn't take time off and he got an opportunity to play at an excellent Division I school and now look where that's taking him."

This will be the school's 11th all-time CWS appearance. They've finished runner-up twice, and back-to-back years no less, in 2006 and '07.
"Coming into the year I tried to keep my mind open with expectations. Some of the coaches preach hard work and that's something I kind of took to heart," O'Brien said. "You kind of have to work hard and whoever works hard is going to prevail and be on the team and have success. I work hard and I think that works out for me because my hard work is the reason I've developed as much as I have to be able to contribute to this team the way that I have."

Hard work has been something O'Brien said he's prided himself on.
"When I came in I was pounding the strike zone and the outings where I've come in and pounded the strike zone I've been successful and hitters have had a really hard time. And then the outings where I worked behind in the count and walked guys that's when it was a lot harder for me," he said. "My thing all year has been getting ahead in the count and keep guys from getting free bases. And going towards next year that's going to be one of the biggest things that I'm going to have to work on as well."

The freshman wearing No. 34 has pitched in 28 games, starting two. He sports a 6-0 record with a 2.14 earned run average.
"I think the best way to be able to do that and throw strikes is not to let the situation shape you're mentality and the way you work out there and approach every batter with a Bulldog attitude," O'Brien said. "Whenever your mentality switches and you have a lack in confidence it makes it a lot harder than going out there, believing yourself, trusting your stuff and throwing. Whenever you do that you're going to be a lot better off and make a lot better pitches. That's something I also figured out over the season."

Coach Williams said he is driving out to Omaha beginning June 20 with his father to support O'Brien and get the whole CWS experience. The Maiden coach said he plans to document his travels and do a video journal of his events that he'll share with the O-N-E.
"I went up and watched the Super Regionals last weekend and I've really not only become a Caden fan but I've grown up a Tar Heels fan," he said. "So that weekend I had the feeling that they were going to make it to Omaha, and as soon as they did on Saturday, as soon as they clinched, I felt like I was being pulled to Omaha. Not only as a fan but as a supporter of Caden. I've watched the kid grow up and I've been on the ball field with him. I just could not stay home is the way I see it."