Monday, January 23, 2012

Baseball faces tough road back to Omaha, but Trust in Tanner!

"In Tanner We Trust!"
I plan to do a more “in-depth” preview of the upcoming baseball season in the next few weeks, but the national media has FINALLY agreed that Ray Tanner’s club is one of the Top 5 in the country going into a season.  Even though we’ve won the last two national championships, they stubbornly refuse to make USC a preseason #1 and that suits me just fine.  The Gamecocks are #2 behind an SEC East Rival. 
According to Collegiate Baseball, the Citrus Lizards from Gainesville have been declared the team that will win it all at the College World Series.  Frankly, you can see why folks are high on Florida.  Hudson Randall is the ace of an outstanding Gator pitching staff that includes Karsten Whitson and consistent hitting throughout the lineup.   Is it any accident that ESPN’s first Thursday night national matchup centers on the #1 Gators coming to Columbia to face the Gamecocks? 
It’s not just Florida we have to worry about either.  The SEC has 4 SEC East teams and 6 total teams in the top 23 in the aforementioned poll, and all 12 SEC teams received votes!  Add in that we have our normal oddly arranged 3 games with Clemson on top of that and USC will face another brutal slate of games in the spring. 
Matt Price
Several other questions must be addressed as well.  First, can we adequately replace some big names that have gone including Scott Wingo, Robert Beary, Adrian Morales, John Taylor and Jackie Bradley, Jr.? Next, how will Matt Price do moving into a starting role?  We know what an absolute intimidating force he has been as a closer.  As a great Gamecock fan told me once, “When he (Price) comes in, he has to have a wheelbarrow with him.”  Hopefully he will be just as effective as a starter.  Finally, there is that always crucial intangible factor of chemistry.  Our national title teams clearly had it and any winning baseball team will.  
At the center of all of this is the heart and soul of our University’s athletic family, the great Ray Tanner.  I have no idea if he is a technical baseball genius or not, but he has leadership and guts, and sometimes that’s enough.  He has made us an elite program at a time when College Baseball is enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity.  He also has the entire Gamecock Nation in his corner, and not just for the last two years. 
Due to that recent success, history revisionists may have forgotten all about what the 2000 baseball team did for the University.  Why do I say that about a team that didn’t even make it to Omaha?  Because of the context of where the men’s major sports were at the time.  We had just finished the 1-21 stretch in football.  Basketball was going nowhere.  We had losing streaks to the Tigers in all three sports.  The State ran an April Fools headline that year saying we had eliminated the football program.  I am telling you…things were BAD! 
Gators picked to unseat the Gamecocks
Then comes Ray Tanner’s 2000 club.  We won two HUGE games over Clemson when they were needed the most.  We rolled to a 25-5 mark in the SEC and won the conference title.  We won 56 games and started a five-year stretch where we were the winningest baseball program in the nation.  In short, it gave Carolina hope and a big shot in the arm.  And it laid the foundation for the YardCocks explosion in 2010 and 2011. 
So bring it on Tigers, Gators, Commodores, and Bulldogs.  I Trust in Tanner!  Win or lose, I’m on the YardCock Express and the 2012 Train is about to leave the station bound for Omaha! 

1 comment:

  1. Tanner IS a baseball genius! There is scientific proof to support that statement with the Chicken Curse being dispelled in June 2010. More than ready for the excitement of spring in Columbia.



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