Our college baseball fans are spoiled
We saw it coming. Hurrying out of the batter's box and into what seemed sure to be another glorious college baseball season in the Palmetto State, it looked from afar like tonight's College of Charleston-Clemson game might have important Ratings Percentage Index implications.
But not for Clemson. The Tigers, according to the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason poll, were the second-best team in the Atlantic Division, just behind Florida State. Now at 26-25-1, the Tigers tonight will scramble to stay above .500. They hope with a final ACC record of 11-18-1 to squeeze into the eight-team ACC Tournament.
The state of the most productive college baseball state per capita is a little shaky.
At best, the Tigers get a sympathetic at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament based on computer consensus that the ACC is the strongest league. But they don't deserve it.
And you have to wonder if South Carolina, though still a strong case for NCAA Tournament qualification, can recover from its 0-3 Arkansas trip to take care of last-place Tennessee this weekend in Columbia and get back in the elite eight Southeastern Conference Tournament picture. The Gamecocks during three days in the wild SEC went from a projected No. 4 seed to the present 13-14 and an outside-looking-in No. 9.
This is a team ranked in the top 25 most of the season.
Better not overlook The Citadel tonight at Sarge Frye Field.
The College of Charleston, picked to win the Southern Conference regular season title, must sweep three games at Western Carolina this weekend to get the nod over idle Elon (19-8 but 1-2 against the 16-8 Cougars).
Baseballs bounce funny in rarefied air.
The truth is, college baseball fans around here are spoiled.
Clemson has played in the NCAA Tournament each of Jack Leggett's 14 seasons as head coach with five trips to the College World Series.
South Carolina has hosted first-round regionals five of the last eight years and made it to Omaha three times under Ray Tanner.
The College of Charleston qualified for three straight NCAA Tournaments and won the Lexington Regional in 2006 before missing out last year.
The Citadel has won more SoCon Tournament titles than any other school.
Coastal Carolina hosted an NCAA Regional in 2007 and can make another argument this year.
Winthrop has been a frequent NCAA Tournament participant.
Wofford stunned its way into the NCAAs a year ago by winning the SoCon Tournament as a No. 9 seed.
Furman won an NCAA Tournament invitation as a SoCon No. 8 seed in 2005.
The thing is, other schools in other states recruit and have scholarships.
It doesn't look much better for next year. Clemson will have a young team again. And with a roster loaded with seniors and draftable juniors such as Lowcountry natives Justin Smoak, Reese Havens and Mike Cisco, it's hard to see South Carolina taking a big step forward.
As Yogi said ...
Clemson, since losing at Mississippi State in a Super Regional last June, lost pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Kevin O'Sullivan, now the head coach at Florida. South Carolina lost longtime recruiting coordinator Jim Toman, the head coach at Liberty.
But with sharp young replacements — former Citadel pitcher Kyle Bunn at Clemson and former C of C outfielder Monte Lee at South Carolina — both programs will be fine.
Leggett is a better coach today than he was while leading the Tigers to the College World Series in 2006.
Tanner remains one of the best in the biz and the Gamecocks have a new ballpark on the way. Really. Finally.
Oh, and for the Gamecocks and Tigers and the state's other teams, this season ain't over 'til it's over.