OMAHA, Neb. - The run to a three-peat begins tonight. South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner hasn’t been shy about calling his team the underdog during the build up to tonight’s game against top-seeded Florida. His Gamecocks (45-17), while defending champs, have lost three of four games to the Gators (47-18) this year and Tanner believes they’re the favorites.
Senior Michael Roth
What he also knows, though, is his team can be better than any team on any given day.
The Gators had eight players selected in the top ten rounds of the MLB Draft earlier this month with five of them being picked in the top three rounds. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s star freshman class from three years ago has grown up and now they have a title on their minds.
“They may be better than us as far as talent is concerned,” Tanner said. “They’re the No. 1 seed, the top-ranked team in the country, and we know we have to play really well. We’re the underdogs. You can’t go into a game against the Gators and not be at your best and expect to win.”
South Carolina will face left-hander Brian Johnson, who was selected No. 31 overall by Boston. Johnson gave up four earned runs on 10 hits in 15 innings pitched against the Gamecocks this season while picking up two wins.
Johnson, however, hasn’t gone up against South Carolina starter Michael Roth, who has had the Gators’ number. Just like Johnson, Roth has had great success against his opposition and he knows that past success isn’t necessarily indicative of future performance.
Roth also knows how big winning the first game is to making a deep run. South Carolina had to battle out of the losers bracket in 2010 and faced a much easier road in 2011 winning all three games prior to the championship series.
Going against a lineup loaded with lots of draft picks, Roth is eager to get the College World Series going again.
“Every time you step out onto a field, you believe you can win a game,” Roth said. “Right now, you just have to go out there and take it game by game, as cliché as it is. Win the first one and then worry about the next one.”
Freshman Grayson Greiner
Roth and the Gamecocks will take the field as the visitors in tonight’s game against Florida at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN.
South Carolina held its final pre-College World Series workout at Creighton University. The team started out with some bunt drills working predominantly on suicide and safety squeeze plays. The coaches were giving some intense instruction making players take repeated reps when they weren’t perfect. After bunting practice, the team took ground balls and batting practice.
Tanner reaffirmed that catcher Grayson Greiner is close to 100 percent. Greiner claimed he’s fully healthy and ready to go.
The team had the night off and were able to take in the opening two games at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha if they so desired. UCLA put it to Stony Brook in the CWS opening game scoring five runs in the bottom of the first inning and cruising to a 9-1 win. Florida State and Arizona were locked in a doozy and went into extra innings.
Arizona knocked back-to-back one-out doubles in the top of the 13th inning to take a one-run lead into the bottom half of the inning. Florida State put the leadoff runner on and got him over to third base with two down. With the tying run 90 feet away, Mathew Troupe struck out the final hitter of the game to put the Wildcats in the winners bracket against UCLA.
Behind enemy lines
Just like the Gamecocks, the Gators held a light workout at Creighton University on Friday afternoon to get one more session of swings and ground balls. Unlike with South Carolina, the Florida practices are closed to the public and coaches and players do not speak to the media.
“Every time we play it comes down to execution,” O’Sullivan said on Thursday. “They’ve got a great team and we feel like we have a good team. It should be a good ball game. We’re not going to get too many opportunities against Roth and when you do, you have to cash in.”
While Tanner has continually said that the Gators should be considered the favorites, O’Sullivan is not so sure.
“You have to have good at-bats and grind him out,” O’Sullivan said. “If you beat them, it’s probably a low-scoring game. When you get opportunities, you have to cash in.”
Things to do
Want something baseball related but educational to do in the morning before heading over to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha? Head over to Conestoga Magnet Elementary School to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Exhibit. The display is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.
If you’re in Omaha and looking for an early supper before heading over to the park, check out Amato’s Café and Catering at 6405 Center Street. Amato’s is known for their breakfast. The pancakes, like Pankake, are well worth the price. Juan Blas had the blueberry ricotta pancakes last year and still talks about them to this day. There are also a handful of great Italian dishes and the restaurant is famous for their homemade sausage.
***All times listed are Eastern***
Want to enjoy all of the premium content on TheBigSpur.com? Click HERE to find out how to receive access to the latest in South Carolina athletics. Get all the breaking news, insight from the best staff of insiders in the market, and join a lively message board community. Also check out our recruiting database, get free text alerts, and enjoy quality content from football, basketball, baseball, and other Olympic sports.