OMAHA, Neb. -- It was 2 a.m. back in Columbia, but the party was just getting started at the downtown Embassy Suites.

The team's hotel all along at the College World Series, the lobby was fashioned into a celebration hall to herald baseball's newest champions -- and the final champions at Rosen-blatt Stadium.

Minutes after laying claim to the school's first national championship in any major sport, South Carolina arrived to the sounds of "Sandstorm" and cheering fans.

Football coach Steve Spurrier and his wife, Jerri, were on hand to help welcome the Gamecocks.

Spurrier and baseball coach Ray Tanner shared an exchange and a few words, and then Tanner took an impromptu podium to say a few words.

He thanked the fans and then said he was about to do something he said he would "never do unless he earned it."

Tanner thrust his index finger in the air.

South Carolina is No. 1.

The Gamecocks finish the season 54-16, the only team in the country that can say it won its final game.

"We're finally champions, first-time champions," said sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who was named the series' Most Outstanding Player after knocking 10 hits and driving in a CWS-high nine runs. "It's amazing. Not only did we make it here, we won it."

A season of strange twists and turns -- and a lot of wins along the way -- ended in complete bliss Tuesday night in the American Midwest.

The Gamecocks lost their first game in the College World Series and then rattled off six in a row -- the first team to ever do that -- to win the title.

Arizona State, the nation's best team most of the season, was first. That turned out to be no problem, an 11-4 victory that included an eight-run second inning. That's one.

Next was Oklahoma, the team that defeated the Gamecocks in the opener. The Sooners stretched USC to its very limit, leading 2-1 in the 12th inning.

Bradley Jr. was down to the season's final strike when he came through with a single to tie the game. Brady Thomas' hit later in the inning won it. That was two.

The following night, South Carolina was charged with the task of defeating its rival, Clemson. Behind reliever Michael Roth's complete game three-hitter, the Gamecocks did with relative ease.

Roth had never thrown more than 4 1/3 innings at USC, and it was his first start in a year. That was three.

The following night, South Carolina had to defeat the Tigers again. It was probably the Gamecocks' most ragged effort since the opener, but they somehow squeaked by 4-3. That was four.

They were into the championship series, playing for the national title for the fourth time in school history.

Blake Cooper came back on three days' rest for the second consecutive start, going eight strong innings to baffle UCLA on Monday night.

The senior, who threw 136 pitches, held the Bruins to a single hit through eight innings. Meanwhile, his teammates handed supposedly unstoppable Gerrit Cole a stunning loss. That was five.

South Carolina saved its most dramatic for last. Despite not doing a whole lot offensively, the team's pitching -- which finished with a stunning 2.15 ERA in seven CWS games, the best of the final eight by a full run -- kept the Gamecocks in it.

In the bottom of the 11th inning, as the clock pushed midnight back home, Whit Merrifield came to the plate with the winning run on third base.

He stayed down on a 2-0 pitch beautifully, lacing it into right field. Scott Wingo, who had walked to start the inning, sent his helmet skyward and crossed home plate to give the Gamecocks the win.

That was six. That was it.

It was the first extra-inning championship game in the College World Series since 1970, the first walk-off win since Warren Morris' home run for LSU in 1996.

Not only did the Gamecocks make history for themselves, they left Omaha -- and loveable Rosenblatt Stadium -- with something to remember.

South Carolina has the championship it had waited for ... for forever. It marks the athletic high-water mark in the school's athletic history.

The celebration, the one that started in the hotel lobby, continued Wednesday in Columbia. The Gamecocks shared that moment with 15,000 friends.

The fun is just beginning for a team that captured the hearts of a nation, not just its city and state.

"It was an incredible journey," Tanner said, "and an incredible ending."

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com, check out the Gamecocks blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks and follow him on Twitter (@gamecocksblog).