Coach: Gamecocks not great, but good enough
OMAHA, Neb. — It was said often during the College World Series that it isn’t necessarily the best team that wins the title but the team that plays the best baseball.
That rings especially true to Ray Tanner, who described his South Carolina team as good but not great even after they swept UCLA in the finals.
“We approached it the right way all season and found a way to win and never gave in, never gave up,” Tanner said.
The Gamecocks (54-16) won their first national championship in a men’s sport late Tues- day with their 2-1, 11-inning victory. Whit Merrifield’s RBI single decided the final CWS game to be played at Rosenblatt Stadium. The event moves from Rosenblatt, the home of the CWS since 1950, to a new stadium next year.
South Carolina clearly wasn’t as dominant as champions such as the Southern California teams of the 1970s or the LSU Tigers of the 1990s.
The Gamecocks were Southeastern Conference runnersup, and they went two games and out at the SEC tournament. They had to win a pair of one-run games against Coastal Carolina in the super regional.
Relative to other teams in the offensive-fueled college game, the Gamecocks’ numbers were modest. Their .300 team average ranked 173rd out of 292 Division I teams. Though they were 12th in home runs with 97, the most by one player were Jackie Bradley’s 13.
Bradley’s team-leading .368 average didn’t even rank among the top 250, and his 60 RBIs were 167th. But Bradley, the Most Outstanding Player in Omaha, had a CWS-high nine RBIs in seven games and hit .345 (10 for 29).
South Carolina batted .284 in Omaha, the lowest average by a national champion since Oregon State hit .281 in 2006.