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Gamecocks bask in glow of second straight national title
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Gamecocks flag is flying on top of the South Carolina state capitol.
Columbia’s classic rock station is taking requests for the school’s fight song and state senators briefly put aside debate on redistricting to call for university trustees to name the baseball stadium after the team’s head coach.
Yep, Columbia is ready to celebrate South Carolina’s second straight baseball national championship.
The team returns Wednesday afternoon from the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., and plans to head straight to a celebration at the school’s basketball arena scheduled for around 5:30 p.m. Last year, the party drew about 13,000 fans.
As the Gamecocks got ready to leave, assistant coach Chad Holbrook, who has seen his team win national titles in two of his three years at South Carolina, sent this out on Twitter: “Bye Omaha. You’ve been good to us. Hope to see you again soon.”
Along with the governor’s declaration that put the Gamecock flag on the Statehouse dome in the same spot where the Confederate flag waved for decades and the party, the city of Columbia also planned a parade down Main Street on Friday.
Although it will likely never be as big as football in South Carolina, the baseball team has found a special place in the hearts of long-suffering Gamecocks fans. After all, how many of them could imagine a time where they could talk about a national championship in a major sport? And now they can have the enviable discussion about which one was better.
The baseball team also quieted talk about a “chicken curse.” The Gamecocks have won 16 NCAA tournament games in a row and 11 straight College World Series games since dropping the opener of the College World Series last year to Oklahoma. Both are NCAA records. During the postseason run, South Carolina has won four games in extra innings and seven of those games by one run.
The win got a $75,000 bonus for head coach Ray Tanner, but will also likely elevate him to greater heights. In 15 years with the school, he has missed the NCAA tournament just twice — both time in his first three seasons. His winning percentage with the Gamecocks is .699.
And there will undoubtedly be a push to name South Carolina’s 3-year-old baseball stadium in his honor, as evidenced on the floor of the South Carolina Senate on Wednesday. Senators mentioned both the back-to-back titles and Tanner’s work with his charitable foundation for both poor children and kids with medical needs.
Tanner guided a team that lost several key contributors, then suddenly got knocked with injuries. Starting outfielders Evan Marzilli and Jackie Bradley Jr. missed a number of games. Then, first baseman Christian Walker fractured his wrist just before the final series with Florida, but still played, getting four hits in nine at-bats in the two games and scoring the winning run in the 11th inning of the opener.
“You get a little luck shining on you and it works out for the best,” Tanner said after winning the title Tuesday night. “And that’s what happened for us. These guys are playmakers, they’ve done a good job between the lines and we had some good fortune.”