Columbia Regional: Can Gamecocks Win Another National Championship?

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Columbia Regional: Can Gamecocks Win Another National Championship?
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Michael Roth throwing heat for the Carolina Gamecocks in the 2011 National Championship Series versus the Florida Gators in Omaha, Nebraska

 

Columbia, South Carolina: The South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team knows how to handle adversity. The collective veterans have faced the most challenging and pressuring obstacles in the NCAA Baseball Playoffs the past two seasons. Regardless, they are known as the Back-to-Back National Champions to South Carolinians and the rest of the world.

Senior pitcher Michael Roth remains the strong-armed go-to pitcher who was not even recruited for the position. Roth, who has a 6-1 record and 2.58 ERA, is considered one of the nation's elite pitchers. He is a finalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award. Vote for the man.

Another pitcher who could have easily gone pro but decided to finish his education is Matt Price. The closer out of Sumter High School was drafted as the 184th pick from the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. The key closer in 2010 and 2011, he is one of the main reasons Carolina has Omaha and the coveted tournament trophy on lock down.  

The Gamecocks also return top returning hitters Christian Walker and Adam Matthews. Walker- a junior, is batting .328 on the year and leads Carolina's stat sheet with 10 home runs. You may remember him as superman. Last season, Walker battled a broken wrist and beat it. Walker continued to perform on baseball's biggest stage—with a handicap. Matthews, a senior outfielder, could have elected to go pro in 2011 when he was drafted by the Orioles in the 23rd round in 2011.

This group, battle-tested and mature, is the Carolina Gamecocks' riding hope to win a third straight national championship. The only team that has previously accomplished the feat: the other USC, the Southern California Trojans, from 1970-74. But many numbers hint that Columbia could be in for another celebration.

Will South Carolina win a national championship for the third time in a row?

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After Southern Cal's run, three teams have got a shot at a three-peat: Stanford (1987-88), LSU (1996-97) and Oregon State (2006-07). None of these teams would return to Omaha in the following year. In fact, LSU was the only team that made the postseason.

With a 40-17 record and a divison crown, the Gamecocks have a much better resume than the other teams that attempted the feat, which is one reason that they have a good shot at winning another national championship.

In the first month of conference play, many SC fans expected that their fate would be similar to Stanford or Oregon State. With a young group that was still trying to find it's way in the baseball world, Carolina started conference play with a 5-7 record including a sweep at Kentucky and a lost series against Florida. USC had to rally to beat Vanderbilt in a three-game series, who was at the time the worst team in the SEC.

Suddenly, the freshmen began to play like veterans. South Carolina embarked on a 12-game conference-winning streak and found a new friend and good luck charm in the process: Repeater, a fish that traveled in it's bowl to all USC home and away games. Four out of the five newcomers that receive significant time at the plate all have a batting average over .242.

With a 40-17 record and a No. 1 seed in the Columbia Regional, the Gamecocks begin their journey against the Manhattan Jaspers.

"I can definitely tell you that winning three in a row is not on the forefront of our minds," South Carolina manager Ray Tanner told The World-Herald on a possible three-peat national championship.

But with a rich history in Omaha and past memories of national championships, some South Carolina fans may think ahead.

The question lingers: can South Carolina win another national championship?

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