OMAHA, Neb. - Another day brings another Southeastern Conference opponent for South Carolina. The league now determined as the best in the RPI, the SEC has three of the eight teams in the College World Series, all on the same side of the bracket.
South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner
The Gamecocks (46-17) dispatched No. 1 national seed Florida on Saturday night and will face off against another conference foe, Arkansas, tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.
The SEC has won the last three baseball national championships - two by South Carolina and one by LSU - and chances are high that there will be one team playing in the best-of-three championship beginning on Sunday night.
“We take a lot of pride in our conference,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “Our conference coaches pull for each other. I think we motivate each other, inspire each other, and everyone works hard. We all feel like at the end of the year, we’ll have two, three, or four teams still playing. It’s not something we think is unusual. We think that’s how good our conference is.”
Florida will take on Kent State at 5 p.m. EDT in the losers bracket game in an effort to prevent being the second team sent home from Omaha. Stony Brook was the first team to check out of their hotel dropping a 12-2 decision on Sunday night to Florida State. The Seminoles will fight for their tournament lives again on Tuesday at 5 p.m. against UCLA, which lost 4-0 to Arizona in a battle of Pac 12 schools.
Should the Gators win the early game, it will ensure that the SEC has a shot at the conference’s fourth straight national championship. The winner of tonight’s game will have the inside track to the championship series needing just one more win while the loser will need three victories to make it until Sunday.
Feeling good off its win over No. 1 national seed Florida, South Carolina hit the practice field at Creighton University for a 90 minute workout for some bunt drills, fielding and batting practice. It was a relatively leisurely day for the Gamecocks.
Tanner said on Sunday afternoon that he’s still debating about who to start at catcher later tonight against Arkansas. Junior Dante Rosenberg has started every game during the NCAA Tournament behind the dish but freshman Grayson Greiner, who has caught the bulk of the innings this year, is back and healthy and proved it catching the final five innings against the Gators.
Junior Colby Holmes has an interesting routine in getting ready for his starts
Greiner hit a two-run home run against tonight’s starting pitcher, Ryne Stanek, in the regular season game against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. That may play into his favor, but his 0-for-3 with one walk and three strikeout performance on Saturday night probably hinders his cause.
Junior Colby Holmes will get the ball for the Gamecocks. He missed his start against the Razorbacks earlier this season after injuring his shoulder in what was termed a “freak” stretching accident by Tanner. During the NCAA Tournament, Holmes has only allowed two hits in 14.0 scoreless innings.
“I think the fact that he’s comfortable now, that he’s one of our top guys on the mound and he’s gotten a little bit older,” Tanner said. “As you saw out here earlier, he’s very comfortable. He’s very relaxed and he’ll go out there and give it all he’s got.”
Holmes showed just how relaxed he was just 36 hours before his start spending part of practice riding around on a tricycle and another portion wrestling a tackling dummy.
Behind enemy lines
The Razorbacks (45-20), fresh off their 8-1 victory on Saturday afternoon against Kent State, practiced on Sunday at Bellevue East High School, the same site South Carolina practiced on Wednesday afternoon.
Arkansas dropped two of three to South Carolina at home earlier this season as part of a disappointing run in the Southeastern Conference. The Hogs began to peak at the right time, though, and found themselves in Omaha with a 1-0 record.
They also know about South Carolina’s 22-game NCAA Tournament winning streak and, like Oklahoma did, have designs on ending it.
“It’s motivation,” Stanek said. “We want to knock them off their perch. If we get a chance to knock them down and stop that streak, that’s good for us.”
While Stanek’s words are strong, they’re certainly understandable. No team has designs of losing or forfeiting just because of a streak. The Razorbacks respect their conference brethren.
“It’s just amazing,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “They’ve done it every way. They’ve whipped you. They’ve come from behind. They’ve pitched. They’ve hit.”
Things to do
Located just up the street from TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, take a little stroll before the game to The Durham Museum at Union Station. The museum is home to various train cars but provides a look at the history of the region more so than anything else. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 801 S. 10th Street.
Want a nice dinner and a cold beverage before heading over to toinght’s game? The perfect spot to hit is Upstream Brewing Company in the heart of the Old Market area in downtown Omaha. Just as it sounds, Upstream Brewing Company has its own hand-crafted beers brewed fresh on-site. Drop by to see their extensive beer menu and also stay for their thin crust pizza, steak, or chicken. Trust me, you’ll leave a happy camper.
***All times listed are Eastern***
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