Resilient...Battle tested...A desire to win.
These are a few words that describe the University of South Carolina's baseball team. Not only are they a collection of superstar baseball players, but they are also funny and insightful and entertaining in interviews and media sessions.
Many players have come and gone since the fairytale 2010 National Championship season, but the Figthin' Gamecocks have not lost a game in a NCAA Tournament game since that year.
The squad hails from Columbia, South Carolina and has a 21-game NCAA tournament winning streak. They will be shooting for their third straight national championship in Omaha, Nebraska. There journey begins this Saturday against the Florida Gators at TD Ameritrade Stadium.
What is not to like about this group that is cool, calm and collected?
If you have been watching the NCAA tournament, have you noticed the antics of the players? Star pitcher Michael Roth usually leads the team in dugout dances and chants when he is not on the field causing trouble for batters of the opposing team.
On the field, Gamecock players are very entertaining to watch. Like I said, you have to tip your cap to Michael Roth. He not only is the lead character in the Gamecocks' "act" on your TV screen while watching the NCAA tournament, but his stats are astounding.
In the 2010 College World Series, coach Ray Tanner expected him to go three to four innings at the most. Instead Roth pitched a one-run, three-hit, complete-game performance against in-state rival Clemson.
Since that day, he's been almost flawless for SC by posting a ridiculous 1.06 ERA last year and a steady ERA of 2.60 in 2012.
You also have big hitters like outfields Adam Matthews and Evan Marzilli. These guys are determined and play with no fear.
Then there's first baseman Christian Walker.
He leads the team with 11 home runs. Don't forget, in last year's College World Series, he broke his wrist. Many optimists and pessimists doubted that he would return, but he came through to hit baseballs at a rapid pace.
To close out games, the 'Cocks have a weapon in senior pitcher Matt Price.
Price was selected in the seventh round of the draft by the Orioles for a good reason. Not only does he close out games for Carolina, he does it in style. After dirty pitches and great catches to get an out or end an inning, Price—the cold-blooded pitcher—will boil over in excitement.
Are the Gamecocks America's Team?
And then there's the younger and or newer players, who are mostly freshman.
Dante Rosenberg, Joey Pankake, LB Dantzler, Chase Vergason and Tanner English all start for SC. In the field, they are seen making amazing plays.
Catcher Dante Rosenberg's blocks of wild pitches have saved the Gamecocks in times of need in the Columbia regional and super regional while regular starter Grayson Greiner has been out with an injury. He is also an excellent bunter.
Then there's Joey Pankake and LB Dantzler in the infield.
Pankake stops ground balls of all shapes and forms while Dantzler has made some great throws all the way across the field to Christian Walker to get runners out. And let's not forget Chase Vergason who stepped up at second baseman when the position was in danger at the start of the season.
English works together with Marzilli and Matthews to run the outfield. Next season, with Marzilli and Matthews likely headed to the draft, he will be the head general of the outfield.
Another thing to like about the Gamecocks is head coach Ray Tanner. His gambles have payed off, and he looks like a genius out there.
Plus, Coach keeps the guys in the classroom.
The baseball team scored a 2.996 GPA this past fall—the highest out of any athletic squad at the University of South Carolina. Tanner is a good disciplinarian, as there is almost an 100 percent chance he will kick a player off the team after their first run-in with the law.
The players love their community and do community service as a labor of love in the offseason. One example of their community service to others took place during the 2010 season.
In 2010, USC's baseball team "adopted" Bayler Teal, a child who tragically died at seven years of age. Before his death, he battled terminal cancer.
The players donated $1,000 to him for Christmas and dedicated their season to him. Bayler Teal thought of the players as "friends" and the players considered him "a friend." They even wrote his initials on their hats, helmets and bats during the 2010 CWS.
In the last two seasons, these players have brought magic and life to the city of Columbia. The championship parade is almost a yearly occurrence now—over 40,000 fans descend into Columbia to participate. There's even a sign that brags about the Gamecocks when you enter the city.
And did I not mention their stadium? Carolina Stadium seats 9,000 fans and is probably the toughest place to play in college baseball. The fans are into the game and like to get loud.
Carolina also has some great looking jerseys. (Just putting that out there.)
USC has also brought the most fans to Omaha since they have participated in the College World Series. Even live mascot "Big Spur" comes along.
Many fans in Omaha have jumped on the Gamecock bandwagon. The Omaha World-Herald and ESPN must be all over them in the last two weeks of June, but I can't say for sure.
The Gamecocks' baseball team have continuously raised the profile of the University of South Carolina, and Ray Tanner has managed a group of players who not only have produced magic and entertained on the diamond, but have also impressed the baseball world with their amazing ethics, academic achievement and service to the community.
This is why so many college baseball fans love the Gamecocks, and they should be called "America's Team." If you don't agree with me, support the Stony Brook Seawolves, "America's Underdog."
On a side note, good luck to your team in the College World Series that play the Gamecocks. South Carolina is on a 21-game winning streak in the NCAA tournament and an 11-game winning streak in the College World Series.
They will be a tough team to beat.
Also, this should be one of the most interesting series in college baseball history, with high-scoring teams like Florida State and Arizona and underdogs like Stony Brook and Kent State.
Needless to say, the best matchup in the first week of the CWS play will most likely be the Gamecocks opening match up with the Florida Gators this Saturday at nine. I recommend that you tune in to ESPN to watch the game.
The defending back-to-back champions will face the nation's No. 1 seed. Not to mention, these teams matched up in last years' CWS Championship Series. And if not for the alignment of the bracket, the two teams might have faced off again in this year's championship series.