Monthly Archives: June 2012

Reflections on the Beginning of a Baseball Dynasty

The Dogpile – A familiar sight the last three years.

For the past couple of days I’ve been struggling to come up with a post about the baseball team and what they have done.  Many excellent writers have written about the team and its mindboggling accomplishments:  back-to-back National Championships, three CWS Finals appearances in a row, the NCAA winning streak, the utter dominance of CTU on the diamond, etc.  Instead of a continued rehashing of all of the feats of the past three seasons (and the entire Ray Tanner era for that matter), I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture: 

What really happened here?  What did we witness?

Well, Gamecock fans, I am here to tell you that we witnessed (and are witnessing) a dynasty unlike anything we have ever seen as a fan base.  We are a program that has emerged from a decent history in baseball to become the unquestioned top program in the sport. 

I tried to come up with some comparisons of teams who became the best and were not a traditional powerhouse:  We are the equivalent of LSU’s baseball program in the 90s (trust me, it’s harder now than it was then).  We are the baseball equivalent of Miami football in the 80s (stay with me, I’m talking new dynasties-otherwise, we have nothing in common with them).  We are the basketball equivalent of UConn basketball (both men and women, to a certain extent).

Make no mistake, this is extremely rare air for us.  Aside from a very brief period in the 70s when the basketball team challenged the big boys, we’ve never even approached this level of excellence at anything.  Now, our baseball program is the simply the best in the country, and I challenge anyone to make a plausible argument otherwise (yes, Arizona, you won and deserved it, but we are talking about the overall program for a moment).   

Soak it up folks.  This is what it feels like.  We’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on top, to have everyone else aspiring to be like us.   Sure, I know it’s baseball and not football (or even basketball).  You know what I say to that?  So what.  Our fan base has long hungered for a big winner.  Now we have one.  And dag blastit, we deserve this.

Coach Tanner and the players have been profusely thanked and honored and they too deserve all the praise they are getting.  We at TRC join in.  Our only regret is that we didn’t get to dogpile.

Other stuff:  

I blame Aaron Fitt. A dynasty, yes, but we did not get to this point by beating up the opposition with overwhelming talent.  Instead, the program became the best by being the best at the little things:  pitching and defense.  We also benefitted from being the underdog.  I really think there’s something to the underdog thing. 

While I like Aaron Fitt and Baseball American a whole bunch, things were best for us when Aaron and his cohorts were picking us to lose to UCLA, to Florida, to UConn, and others.  Over the past few years I can’t remember those guys ever picking us to win a big game.  That changed when Fitt and John Manuel did their finals preview podcast last week. While Manual held true form and picked the more “talented” Arizona team, Fitt succumbed to the allure of the gritty Gamecocks and actually picked us to win. 

So, I blame Aaron Fitt for the loss.  It’s clearly his fault for upsetting the underdog karma.

The Shirt.  It didn’t always work, but it was uncanny how often my old South Carolina Baseball shirt has proven to make a difference.  Purchased at the Regionals or Super Regionals in 2002 (I think Buck was with me, but I’m not entirely sure), The Shirt has seen better days.  It’s faded and rotten around the collar.  Worn as an undershirt during important games (both Alabama wins come to mind), The Shirt has consistently produced for the Gamecocks.   

The Shirt

At a football tailgate last year I had the luck of running into Coach Tanner.  Less than fully sober and thinking that Ray surely wanted to hear about The Shirt and its vast powers, I proceeded to give him a viewing, holes and all.  While I thought it was pretty cool, Ray told me not to wash it but sort of looked at me like I was crazy.   

This post season I left The Shirt off until needed.  Put on right before the 5th inning against Florida, The Shirt produced 5 runs.  Put on in the 7th inning against Arizona in the final game, The Shirt produced the tying run.  Coupled with my ritual of watching TV when we hit and listening to the radio when we pitch and play defense (which worked like a champ the last two years), I thought The Shirt would get it done once again. 

Alas it wasn’t to be.  While The Shirt is undoubtedly the most powerful good luck charm out there besides the Avatar Spirit Stick, we at TRC would like to know what other items or rituals are out there that seemingly cause the Gamecocks to win. 

Do share.

About these ads

Carolina Baseball – The Mural Project

Shortly after South Carolina’s Super Regional win to earn its third straight trip to the College World Series in Omaha, I wrote the following:

Michael Roth, Matt Price, Evan Marzilli, and Christian Walker have all been indispensable parts of the two National Championship teams and the current CWS team.  And as those four threw their last pitches and took their last swings at Carolina Stadium, they received well-deserved standing ovations and one absolutely necessary curtain call for Roth.

Win or lose in Omaha over the next two weeks, we know there will be a statue someday for the architect of all this success, Ray Tanner.   

But as we watched 29, 22, 31 and 13 participate in one final dogpile in Columbia, it got me to thinking – do they deserve more? 

I’m not talking about retiring numbers, I don’t really believe in that practice except in extraordinary circumstances (see Steve Wadiak and George Rogers). 

But how about a mural?  What better way to honor the cornerstones of our two (and maybe three) time National Champions by permanently putting their faces at the entrance to Carolina Stadium?   

Or even better, put their faces on the outfield walls.  Even if you just put them up for the next 2-3 years, the fans would have a reminder of the monumental accomplishments of these guys.  Plus, if you want to intimidate the competition, the steely eyed stare of Matt Price, even in mural form, couldn’t hurt.

A standing ovation and a place in the historical record is nice, but these four deserve more.  They have helped make South Carolina the current gold standard in college baseball, and put us historically in the conversation with legendary programs Southern California, Texas and LSU.    

They are special players, and should be remembered in a special way.

Now, today, after a tough loss to an excellent Arizona team ended the dreams of the third straight national title, I feel more strongly about this than ever. 

We have heard the amazing stats and numbers over the course of the last two weeks.  There are multiple records our boys set, many of which may never be broken.  And the four guys mentioned above were major contributors to what is easily the greatest run of any Gamecock team in history.

Email associate AD Charles Waddell at charlesw@sc.edu if you think Roth, Price, Walker and Marzilli deserve a permanent place at Carolina Stadium.  I sure do.

Happy Father’s Day!

Listen Up! TRC Unleashed – Episode 23 is Here

Click here to listen to TRC Unleashed – Episode 23, where you can hear the staff talk about:

  • The ‘Cocks chances at the 2012 CWS
  • Reminisce about the 2002 tournament and CWS
  • Missing Mike Morgan
  • This Week in Dabo (it’s a doozy)

Among other things.

Friday @ 6:30 p.m. – TRC Unleashed Episode 23 is Coming!

What kind of losers hold a podcast at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday night?  Wait, you answered that way too quickly…

Anyhoo, Buck, Gman and Tbone are back after a nearly two month hiatus to cover super important topics regarding Gamecock athletics, including:

  • A preview of the 2012 CWS (we seem to do this every year, what’s up with that?)
  • A review of the regional and super regional held in Columbia
  • This Week in Dabo
  • The real reason recruits commit to Clemson
  • Any other football news we can dredge up
  • GABA’s College Tworld Series

You can listen live, or later, right here.

Join us if you can.

The Buck Sweep – Four Horsemen Edition

A familiar scene from Dogpile Stadium.

The incredible postseason success of the USC baseball team continues.

In winning their 21st consecutive NCAA tournament game (and 24th straight at home), the Gamecocks will get a chance to add to their College World Series record of 11 consecutive wins. 

It has been an improbable run, one that in a more high-profile sport would be the subject of HBO or ESPN documentaries and (more) books chronicling the runs. 

Michael Roth, Matt Price, Evan Marzilli, and Christian Walker have all been indispensable parts of the two National Championship teams and the current CWS team.  And as those four threw their last pitches and took their last swings at Carolina Stadium, they received well-deserved standing ovations and one absolutely necessary curtain call for Roth.

Win or lose in Omaha over the next two weeks, we know there will be a statue someday for the architect of all this success, Ray Tanner.   

But as we watched 29, 22, 31 and 13 participate in one final dogpile in Columbia, it got me to thinking – do they deserve more? 

I’m not talking about retiring numbers, I don’t really believe in that practice except in extraordinary circumstances (see Steve Wadiak and George Rogers). 

But how about a mural?  What better way to honor the cornerstones of our two (and maybe three) time National Champions by permanently putting their faces at the entrance to Carolina Stadium?   

Or even better, put their faces on the outfield walls.  Even if you just put them up for the next 2-3 years, the fans would have a reminder of the monumental accomplishments of these guys.  Plus, if you want to intimidate the competition, the steely eyed stare of Matt Price, even in mural form, couldn’t hurt.

A standing ovation and a place in the historical record is nice, but these four deserve more.  They have helped make South Carolina the current gold standard in college baseball, and put us historically in the conversation with legendary programs Southern California, Texas and LSU.    

They are special players, and should be remembered in a special way.

Sweeping on…

Clemson and Oklahoma were good, but they’re obviously not Francis Marion.  At no time this season was there more hand-wringing and finger-pointing than when USC lost to Division II Francis Marion 5-4 on April 11.  It was an embarrassing loss for sure, but fortunately Ray Tanner was able to keep his job and so far things have turned out ok. 

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how the Patriots season turned out, and the Googles told me they were upset in the Division II Southeast Regional Tournament by Catawba College by a score of 8-4.  Francis Marion finished the season with a 40-18 record.  You can bet the memories of one of those 40 victories will last a lifetime.    

Statistics Central. After whining incessantly for about 18 hours on Twitter about the circumstances surrounding the suspension of Sunday’s game against Oklahoma, David Cloninger of Gamecock Central hit us with a couple of interesting statistics about USC’s return to Omaha: 

  • USC is the first team to head to Omaha with a chance at a three-peat since LSU in 1998 (they were not successful) and just the third team ever.
  • Southern Cal was the first, winning five straight titles from 1970-1974.
  • USC is #10 in all-time CWS victories with 28 (including the aforementioned 11 straight).
  • Arizona is #9 all-time, with 33 wins.  None of the eight teams above them are in the CWS this year.
  • Florida State has 20 appearances in Omaha without a title, far and away the record.  Second?  That would be CTU with 12.  (CTU did not make it to Omaha this year, BTW).

Good stuff.

Down with Demetra II.  There has finally been some heated debate about Andy Demetra on Gamecock Message Boards.  Not surprisingly, the split appears to be about 50/50 between love and hate, and not much in the middle. 

That’s cool, everybody gets an opinion.  But it’s things like this, in addition to his voice and delivery, that really stick in my craw:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right, he tweeted the text of his final call.  I’m sure because he was proud of his own perceived cleverness of it.  How self-absorbed is that?  And for heavens’ sake, that avatar…

Ugh, ok, I’ll drop it.  I just think a classy, humble guy like Mike Morgan deserved/deserves to call this run.

The Tweet Sixteen.  While TRC was booted in the first round by a late-charging Wes Mitchell, ITS_DABO rolled to another victory in the garnetandblackattack.com  “Garnet and Blacketology” tournament

Great work by those guys, but there’s been a really funny dynamic to the whole deal.  A few have outwardly campaigned, a few appear to be paying no attention whatsoever, but the largest group appears to be paying attention but not outwardly campaigning for fear of looking like they care. 

You care guys, we see you. 

Go Cocks.  

Our Thoughts and Prayers are in the Plains

Details still sketchy, but this sounds tragic.  Pray for our Auburn University brothers and sisters.

The Dabo Swinney Contract Negotiations

It’s official as of today:  CTU Head Coach Dabo Swinney just signed a new 6 year contract that will pay him almost 2 Million a year.

Impressive, right?

Well, we were inspired by the folks at Sportstalk Radio Network to use the SC Freedom of Information Act to gather more information on the contract, and we can now offer this exclusive look at one of Dabo’s memos from the contract negotiations:

[CLICK HERE FOR FULL DOCUMENT]

 

SEC Football Coaches – Summer Movie Poster Edition

We’re all still smarting from our GABA Bracketology beatdown, so we’re falling back on a familiar TRC meme:  Things that are completely unrelated to other things:

In this installment, we look at the SEC football coaches, if they were 2012 summer movies:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

They Can’t Beat Us

That’s what I yelled as I departed The Ray.  The CTU fans within earshot just kept on walking, heads down.

Wow, was that sure a fun weekend of baseball.  You would think it would sort of be ho-hum after the last two years, but it isn’t  — not by a long shot.  It’s never ho-hum to win a regional and to do it by spanking your rival.  Again.

Game 1: It was epic, a true classic.  I had the (dis)pleasure of sitting in the CTU parents and girlfriends section for that one.  Man those are some annoying folks.  They pretty much whined and cried about everything.  I guess you could say the fans reflect the coach.  Oh well, on to the game…..

Roth did not have his best stuff, but great D made up for it.  Pankake’s backhand in the hole and throw to third being one example.  Others who stood out:  Rosenburg with several great stops on pitches in the dirt, and Marzilli with another great catch in center.  At for the hitters, I was personally very glad to see Adam Matthews have a big game.  Termed a “Tiger Killer” by Tommy Moody, Adam did not disappoint.  I had a great seat for the HR and the almost HR (how that did not go out, I’ll never know-it hit the top of the yellow line and bounced up).  While the crowd was pretty stunned after Vergason was tagged out in the 9th and after Matthew’s almost won it, there was a feeling in the air that we were gonna win.  The CTU fans pretty much shut it down in the extra frames-preparing themselves for the inevitable.  And there it was.  LB’s blast over Felder (the bat flipper punk) was pretty sweet. One down, one to go.

Game 2:  While lacking the drama of Game 1, this one proved to be big fun as well.  Sitting with the Gamecock faithful this time (and right under the Rooster-that’s one cool looking bird), it proved to be another day at the ballpark for this team.  After a mid-season slump, Freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery did his best Michael Roth impression.  The kid was simply fantastic.  What impressed me most was how cool and collected he looked throughout the game.  And when Webb came in from the pen throwing strikes, I had the feeling that it was over.  Sure, we had a little excitement there in the 9th, but the crowd didn’t really seem that concerned.  A confidence, like nothing I have ever experienced, sort of gripped the stadium.  After all these years , I think we finally know what it feels like to be the absolute best at something.  Sure we may not win it all this year, but our baseball program is the best there is.  That’s what Game 2 felt like.

Random Observations:

I think Joey Pankake is becoming my favorite player on this team.  The dude rarely has a bad at bat and almost always hits the ball hard.  I think we are seeing a star in the making with that guy.  It sort of reminds me of watching Walker two years ago.  Get ready to enjoy the ride.

We have beaten CTU in the last 6 meaningful baseball games we have played against them.  They can say all they want about history and such, but we OWN them in baseball (and in pretty much everything else).  To be honest, I never thought I would see this day.

Ray Tanner always seems to push the right buttons.  It’s freakin uncanny.  In Game 1 the guy next to me couldn’t understand why he let Sullivan, a .177 hitter, bat in the 8th down one run with a runner in scoring position. When he said that, I had two thoughts:  1) Ray likes older players in big spots, 2) Ray was saving Kyle Martin, his last lefty bat, for the 9th.  Well, guess what happened….Martin pinch hit for English in the 9th and led off with a hit.  We tied the game and advanced to extras.

19 wins in a row in the NCAAs.  Back to my point about us being the best.  I’m gonna go our there and say that this is a streak that may never be broken.  Note to Athletic Department:  start looking for an artist to create the Ray Tanner statue.  Gonna need it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,123 other followers

%d bloggers like this: