When the last out was called. When the fans left the stadium. When the lights were shut off, there was a long list of things that had happened “again”:

Again South Carolina hosted a Regional.

Again they swept the field.

Again they are heading to the Super Regionals.

This season started off rough for the two-time defending National Champions. They faced a unique – albeit welcome – challenge of being the team that had to carry on the legacy of the two before it.

Make no mistake; this is an entirely different team than 2010 or 2011. Early in the season, a 1-5 in Southeastern Conference record probably had a couple of the new players - and even veterans - scratching their heads and second guessing themselves.

Then they found their groove, they remembered they are as talented as any team in the country, and they got back to what Gamecock fans expect: excellence.

What makes Carolina Baseball such a passion in Columbia? It’s clutch baseball, it’s the “cardiac cocks”, it’s avatars and antics in the dugout. There is little doubt ESPNU delighted in featuring the Columbia Regional – sellout games, screaming fans, and daring one-run wins featuring the two-time national champions lifted the broadcast to heights rarely seen in a televised college baseball game.

“Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself.” – Paul “Bear” Bryant

Do you remember when happened when Kentucky swept the Gamecocks early in the season? Do you remember how they howled, pounded their chests, and mocked the national champions? Do you remember the lack of sportsmanship they showed?

As they head home after being knocked out of a regional they didn’t host, they can think about the fact that they hold the all-time school record for wins. Then they can think about the fact that South Carolina is still playing, still fighting, still clawing.

And they are doing it with class.

When the Gamecocks win, it is expected. Getting excited is one thing, but this team is pure class. From seniors like Michael Roth to freshman like Tanner English, this Gamecock team knows that unless you win with class, you hardly win at all.

When the last out was called on Sunday evening, I saw a team who gritted their teeth and played well beyond their collective experience. I saw a team who acted with class and dignity; delighting in their victory but respecting their opponents. I saw a team who took a legacy of excellence and continued it.

It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish that really counts.

Do yourself a favor, watch this video. Sixteen seconds in? That is passion. That is excellence.

Now watch it again at pause it 51 seconds in. That is Carolina Baseball.

USC_Clemson 6212.MOV

Be sure to visit Justin King’s Facebook page and follow him on Twitter.

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