USC in midst of historic CWS run

South Carolina coach Ray Tanner waves his arms during practice in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday. South Carolina is scheduled to play Florida tonight in the College World Series. (The Associated Press)

Published: Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 12:13 a.m.

OMAHA, Neb. — Sometimes when something is happening it's hard to step back and look at it. And South Carolina coach Ray Tanner does everything he can to keep it out of his mind.

But it's there.

The last time South Carolina lost an NCAA Tournament game was in Omaha but at Rosenblatt Stadium. It was its opening game of the 2010 College World Series when Oklahoma claimed a 4-3 win.

Who could have seen what would happen next?

The Gamecocks (45-17) have won a record 21 straight NCAA games (26 of their past 27 in the tournament), 11 straight in Omaha on their way to consecutive national championships. That streak will be on the line tonight when they face Florida (47-18) at 9.

“It really didn't hit me how much it was until we were flying back last year,” said Florida coach Kevin O‘Sullivan, whose team lost the championship series to South Carolina last year. “It's been a great run for him.”

The cast of characters has changed from year to year. South Carolina lost six starters from last year's CWS team and struggled to find its identity earlier in the season. But did anybody doubt the Gamecocks would be back eating steaks in Omaha?

Because in a way, this came out of nowhere, this amazing NCAA-record streak that may be snapped but may never be broken.

Dave Van Horn, the Arkansas coach, said he was talking to Tanner at the SEC Tournament in 2010, just before the wild ride was starting.

“I won't go into the whole conversation, but it wasn't going great for them,” he said. “Next thing you know, they're winning the national championship. I talked to him the next time, and he was all smiles. Everything seems to be going good in South Carolina now.”

Some teams would feel pressure from a long NCAA winning streak, but Tanner's teams have seemed to thrive on it, almost as if no matter what is going on they know they will find a way to win.

“We don't really embrace it,” he said. “When it's being said, it's almost like that's not us. Our guys don't think they're unbeatable by any stretch of the imagination. They do think we have a chance. It's confidence, but it's not arrogance.

“Have we been lucky? Has it been a tremendous run? Absolutely. It's kind of hard to imagine, to be honest with you. We're not a team that exudes tremendous talent.”

But it keeps winning. Tonight, Florida's top-seeded team will try to end the streak knowing that the losing team is going to have a tough time coming back from the loser's bracket. Florida has had plenty of recent success against eighth-seeded South Carolina, winning three times in four games against the Gamecocks this season.

But this is the College World Series, where the Gamecocks have been around so long they should have voting rights in Nebraska.

“That's unreal, it's unheard of to be honest,” said Florida's starting pitcher tonight Brian Johnson. “It's awesome.”

It's there. But perhaps the reason for the success is that South Carolina has not allowed itself to get too caught up in it.

“It's simple for our guys,” Tanner said. “I'm one of those coaches where if we're stretching or they're in the dugout or on the bus, I'm eavesdropping. I want to know what conversations are going on.

“That never comes up. It's about let's go play and get in a position to win and keep it simple. That's kind of the way they are.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top