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Reine gets delayed shot at title with Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Cody Reine always dreamed of playing in the College World Series. Just not necessarily wearing an Oklahoma uniform.

The Sooners' hero so far in the NCAA tournament was raised only about 20 minutes from LSU's campus and always wanted to play for the powerhouse Tigers. He even went to LSU and redshirted before it became clear he wasn't going to get a chance to play right away.

Just before the Tigers started their run to last year's national title, Reine transferred away from home. He ended up with the Sooners, then smashed four home runs in Oklahoma's two Super Regional wins against Virginia to find his way to Omaha, Neb., anyway.

"I have my own chance to hopefully help us write our name in history: the last team to win the College World Series at Rosenblatt (Stadium)," Reine said. "It's an awesome feeling."

Reine stamped his place in Oklahoma history by following his two-homer outing against Virginia in Game 2 by hitting two three-run shots in the Sooners' 11-0 victory Monday night that clinched the program's 10th trip to the College World Series.

Oklahoma (49-16) will face South Carolina (48-15) in its opener on Sunday.

"I wasn't ready for the season to end, so I was willing to do anything in my power to make sure the season didn't end right now," said Reine, a sophomore. "I was able to help us out a lot, and it's just a great feeling."

Reine grew up not far from Baton Rouge in Walker, La. He was an accomplished outfielder, started at running back in high school and always envisioned himself playing on college baseball's grandest stage for his hometown team.

"That's what my dream was," Reine said. "Growing up there and then having the opportunity there, that was just like a dream come true because I knew that with the tradition and everything, that was where that team always ended up."

Reine's skills earned him the chance to play for his beloved Tigers — or at least that's what he thought. He arrived to find Jared Mitchell and Blake Dean entrenched in the outfield, and he redshirted his freshman season. Before the next season started, he realized his opportunity wasn't approaching as soon as he had hoped.

"They told me I wasn't going to be one of the key guys," Reine said. "I didn't want to sit on the bench anymore. I was ready to play."

Reine transferred to Grayson County College, a Texas junior college where Oklahoma hitting coach Tim Tadlock had been the head coach until 2005, initially planning to return to LSU. As the Tigers won last year's College World Series, he still thought he'd be rejoining them.

Helping to steer him toward the Sooners were Jamie Johnson, a fellow Louisiana native who was Reine's teammate in summer ball during high school, and J.T. Wise, who transferred from LSU before becoming the Big 12 player of the year last season at Oklahoma. Mitchell was the 23rd overall pick in last year's draft, while Dean went in the 10th round before returning to LSU for his senior season.

"I'm really pleased with where I'm at now. I'm ecstatic," Reine said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Neither would his teammates, even if they do give the 5-foot-9 Reine plenty of ribbing for his not-so-slim, 217-pound frame. He's earned the nicknames "Fat Cody" and "Fat Panda," to go along with the less-disparaging "Fresh Cody."

And after failing to even get off the bench in 17 games early this season, Reine is becoming known as the Sooners' clutch hitter.

Reine had the game-winning, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth in a 3-2 win against Kansas in Oklahoma's Big 12 tournament opener, then followed it up with his power surge against No. 5 national seed Virginia.

"You ask anybody on our team and they're going to say, 'We love that guy,'" center fielder Chris Ellison said. "He's helped us late in the season. Words can't describe how much he means to this team."

Reine is now hitting .341 with 10 home runs in only 132 at-bats this season, racking up 11 of his 42 RBIs in the last two games.

"Early in the season, I just didn't have a great swing. I had a lot of problems with my swing, a lot of holes in it," Reine said. "Now, I guess it's kind of back's up against the wall. I want to get there and I want to help this team get there, so I'm doing everything I can.

"Things happen to be clicking for me right now, and this is a great feeling."