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Lancaster area University of South Carolina Gamecock baseball fans are glowing with June jubilation as the USC team returns to the College World Series to bid for a possible third straight national crown.
The 45-17 Gamecocks, the two-time defending national champions, are Omaha-bound after winning the Super Regional with a 5-1 win over Oklahoma on Monday afternoon at Carolina Stadium where USC won its NCAA record 21st straight postseason tournament game.
USC opened the Super Regional with a 5-0 win over the Sooners on Saturday night and then wrapped up the CWS bid with the four-run win Monday. The game actually began Sunday night, but was suspended to Monday afternoon due to heavy rain.
Veteran Gamecock fan Joe Grier, a 42-year member of the Gamecock Club and a board member with the Lancaster County Gamecock Club, said USC baseball coach Ray Tanner is the reason for another extraordinary season and a shot at a third straight national crown.
“I think it’s the coach,” Grier said. “He makes those players walk a thin line and he knows how to get them to gel.
“Coach Tanner has a plan and the players execute the plan,” Grier said of Tanner who has USC in the CWS for the sixth time under his leadership. “He’s a genius at putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”
Grier noted the Gamecocks’ run to return to Omaha was a challenge.
“They had to beat their archrival in Clemson to win the regional and move on to the Super Regional and they did,” Grier said. “Then, they faced an Oklahoma team with a strong pitching staff, but they were equal to the task with outstanding pitching, starters and relievers.”
USC board of trustees member Hugh Mobley of Lancaster also credited Tanner with bringing the USC team along after a 1-5 start in SEC play.
“Coach Tanner has an instinct for the game,” Mobley said. “He has a knack for in-game and in-season decisions. Some people have that ability of reading talent and he does.
“He just has that way of maximizing his talent,” he said. “I think Matt Price is a good example. He tried Price as a starter early in the season, but he moved him back as a closer and the team became whole again.”
Mobley added Tanner is a quality person.
“I’m really glad for him because he’s an awesome ambassador for the university,” Mobley said. “We have something special here in baseball. This feeling doesn’t get old. It’s good anytime it happens.”
John Bundy, a member of the Lancaster County Gamecock Club, said the Gamecocks’ pitching has been pivotal in the team’s late-season run.
“The pitching has kept them in it until the hitting has come around,” Bundy said. “We’ve been able to keep it manageable and find a way. This gives you a chance until the hitting comes around. Coach Tanner has proven to be a master at generating runs.”
Bundy added Tanner has meshed the new talent with the returning players.
“The new faces (freshmen and junior college players) took a little bit to get the feel for Carolina baseball, but once they settled in, they seem to have come around on that aspect of the game,” Bundy said.
Lancaster County Gamecock Club president Glenda Powell said the Gamecocks have hit their stride at the right time.
“At the start of the season, I didn’t think they had a chance, but they pulled together at the right time.
“They have a way of surprising,” she said. “I congratulate them on what they have accomplished so far in having a chance at three national championships in a row, and I wish them the best of luck.”
The Gamecocks open defense of their national title facing No. 1 Florida on Saturday night at 9.