Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Columbia Regional will be a wild “Palmetto” affair!

Should be an interesting week of baseball in Columbia!

The South Carolina Gamecocks earned a national seed for this year’s college baseball postseason, despite starting what seemed like 500 freshman and struggling against the SEC’s best rivals.  USC will host Manhattan, Clemson and Coastal at the Columbia Regional starting Friday at The Ray.  This year marks the first time that Carolina and Clemson have been put in the same regional since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999.  Throwing Coastal into the stew should make Carolina Stadium the wildest venue in the field.  

I have talked to fans from all three in-state schools since yesterday to get a sample of reactions.  They break down basically like you would expect.  Some Gamecock fans don’t feel like Clemson earned the right to stay close to home in the Regionals.  Some Tiger fans feel like they have been handed a death sentence despite playing in the nation’s highest rated conference.  The Coastal fans I talked to feel like they should have been the #2 seed.  

Everyone agreed that the NCAA chose crazy theatre over proper seeding and that probably is right.  The truth is that this decision was bound to happen at some point and all the teams just need to embrace it and deliver a great weekend of baseball.  What an opportunity to showcase our state for the rest of the nation.  It is no wonder that this regional has been chosen as one of the national broadcasts.  

Think of the plot lines and questions that are already surfacing:  Will Ray Tanner start Roth against Manhattan (like he normally does) or hold him for Saturday?  Will Jack Leggett do his annual “tightening up” when his team has a chance to take a big step?  Will Coastal finally land a signature win in the postseason to prove they deserve the national respect they have been demanding?  Will Manhattan ruin the all-Sandlapper Party by upsetting the Gamecocks on Friday?  

Whoever does win this Regional should feel good about their program.  Yes, even the Gamecocks as 2-time defending national champs have a lot of incentive to play well based on history.  We have owned Clemson in Omaha, but not so much during the other parts of the NCAA tournament.  Of course, Clemson needs to slay South Carolina in something of substance to avoid another complete fan-base meltdown.  Meanwhile, Coastal has been playing our state’s version of East Carolina for a few years and just wants to be noticed.  Intensity.  Nervousness.  Passion.  Anger.  Excitement.  You just have to love College Baseball in the Palmetto State.  LET’S GET IT ON! 

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