South Carolina is still alive in the NCAA tournament despite the fact that the Gamecocks' baseball obituary had long been written to be published at the end of the regular season.
"They came back from the dead," head coach Mark Kingston said. "What's better than that?"
As the No. 2 seed of the Greenville (N.C.) Regional, the Gamecocks swept through with three straight victories, the championship coming against UNC Wilmington 8-4, and will now play Arkansas in a best-of-three Super Regional beginning at 6 p.m. ET Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. The second game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday and third, if necessary, 7 p.m. Monday.
Not even Kingston could have told those obit writers with much confidence when the Gamecocks were 20-17 that South Carolina would be one of the last 16 teams still playing, two wins from going to the College World Series.
"You would've had to be real optimistic at that point," Kingston said. "We never put a ceiling on what we think a team can do. We go into every season saying we want to maximize that club, whatever that may be. Whatever kind of talent you have, whatever hand you've been dealt, we want to make sure we are maximizing the talent of that team. Early on, it took us a while to figure out how to do that."
And if someone had been able to actually see into the future and told him the Gamecocks would figure things out so well that they would be in Super Regional?
"I would've said we'd better make a lot of adjustments," he said. "We'd better fix a lot of things. We'd better get some breaks along the way. And we don't have any time to waste."
South Carolina didn't make the NCAA tournament last season and changed head coaches, bringing in Kingston to replace Chad Holbrook, who is now at the College of Charleston. The Gamecocks played host to a Super Regional in 2016, losing in two games to Oklahoma State. They will be looking to return to the College World Series for the first time since three straight trips to Omaha, Neb., from 2010-12, the first two resulting in national championships under then-coach and now athletic director Ray Tanner.
Arkansas— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) June 5, 2018
For the 3rd time in SEC history, teams advance to Super Regionals -- tying the NCAA Tournament record for most teams from one conference. pic.twitter.com/ymux5FLBfO
This season's regular lineup has been led mostly by the only seniors on the team in designated hitter Madison Stokes, third baseman Jonah Bride, catcher Hunter Taylor, second baseman Justin Row and first baseman Matt Williams.
"It's interesting with seniors," Kingston said. "Sometimes seniors that don't get drafted start to worry about the rest of their life. They don't necessarily put as much work on their baseball game as maybe they did when they were younger and had a dream of playing pro baseball as an ultimate destination. So with seniors, sometimes you don't get as much. But these guys tried to become the best baseball players they could be and all of those guys had career years. Because they had career years, we're in a Super Regional."
This article is written by Todd Shanesy from Spartanburg Herald-Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.