Tony Mueller is torn.
He can't wait for what's about to happen, can't wait for the next few days -- the next few games -- to play out. On the other hand, knowing that his college baseball career is about to end, he wants to slow things down and appreciate every moment.
"Right now we know anything is possible,'' Mueller said.
Mueller is perhaps the brightest among many stars on the Winona State baseball team, which is about to take part in its first NCAA Division II World Series. Mueller, a 6-foot, 175-pound center fielder/pitcher who talks the way he plays -- in a rush -- is an agile, versatile and very, very fast reason why the team will be playing Saturday, when the tournament begins in Cary, N.C.
There is a reason why Winona picked up a large pack of pro scouts this spring. Mueller enters the tournament leading the team with a .385 batting average and 46 runs. He is also 5-3 as a pitcher, with a 3.27 earned run average, with five complete games and two saves.
"He's been a catalyst for our team since Day 1," said Winona State coach Kyle Poock. "He gets on base, he gets the team going. Once he gets going, he picks everybody up."
Not that Mueller has done this on his own. Not even close. Winona State has a history of success in the program. Under longtime coach Gary Grob, the Warriors made it to several NAIA World Series. But this is the first since the program joined NCAA Division II in 1995.
There were lofty expectations for this season. The Warriors had eight regulars back from a 2010 team that went 36-16 and advanced to the NCAA Division II regional. Even though the team didn't advance in that tournament -- "We were two and bar-b-qued," Mueller said. ''Everybody knew this year's team could be a good one.
"We knew there was a chance we could do this," Poock said.
Eight players are hitting more than .300 for the 39-17 Warriors. Seven players have driven in at least 26 runs, led by Joe Kley, who has 11 homers, 64 RBI and is batting .355.
The deep pitching staff has a 3.49 ERA, led by Simon Kodey (7-2, 1.78), Andrew DeSousa (6-1, 3.15), John Wenker (6-2, 3.38) and Aaron Hoverson (6-1, 4.19), as well as Mueller.
But Mueller has been the catalyst. He grew up in La Crosse, Wis., in a sports-centric family. His father, Dale, played college football. Both his older brothers played baseball. One brother, Dale, played four years at Butler. Another brother, Jon, played one year there before transferring to the University of Minnesota, where he pitched well enough to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2005. Mueller's sister, Michelle, is a freshman on the University of Wisconsin softball team.
For years, his older brothers chided Tony about how they'd won a state high school title but he didn't. Now Tony has bragging rights.
"They never made it [to a College World Series], he said. "Now I can finally one-up them."
Now it's just a matter how far Mueller and the Warriors can go. Mueller, a junior, is a lock to be taken in the Major League Baseball draft in early June. When recruiting Mueller, Poock knew he would probably only have him three seasons.
"Almost all the clubs have been here watching him at some point during the season," Poock said. "He's such a good player, and he's fast. He has been timed at 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash, and gets from home to first -- from the right-hand batter's box -- in about 4 seconds.
Mueller said he was difficult at times staying focused while drawing so much attention.
"All those scouts at the games? I just tried to block 'em out," Mueller said. "I know they were there to watch me, to see me do well. It was something new for me. As a Midwest kid, you don't see that a lot."
It certainly didn't slow Mueller down. Entering the World Series, Mueller carries a career college batting average over .400 and a 15-8 record as a pitcher.
This weekend in North Carolina, Mueller's mom and sister will be there. Brother Dale was trying to get time off to be there, too.
"We had the goal to make it here, and we did it," Mueller said. "Now anything can happen. Our team was mentally tough [throughout the regional], which is how we made it this far. We just have to keep it going."