Euphoric USC fans celebrate

USC Fans celebrate the USC College World Series victory Tuesday night at George's Sports Bar in West Ashley.

COLUMBIA -- The roar was deafening inside Village Idiot after Whit Merrifield knocked in the game-winning run for the Gamecocks against UCLA in the College World Series late Tuesday night.

Strangers hugged. Lovers kissed. Everybody danced.

The Five Points bar, popular among University of South Carolina students, was packed even during summer session, and the run that earned USC its first national championship in a major sport was all it took to set the place into a frenzy.

The night had begun, as most baseball games do, calmly enough. At Wild Wings, most of the crowd sat around tables, settling in for the long haul.

Still, Stephanie Ey, a USC senior from Mount Pleasant who was watching the game at Pearlz, said the atmosphere in Columbia in recent days was making casual fans like herself tune in.

"It definitely puts some excitement in you," Ey said.

A few Clemson fans among the swarms of garnet and black seemed willing to put aside the in-state rivalry for the night. Hunter Boggs, a former Clemson student who recently transferred to USC, said he wasn't one to pull for UCLA out of spite after his team had lost to the Gamecocks.

"I would rather see a team from South Carolina win," Boggs said. "That's the great thing about the Clemson-Carolina rivalry: You hate each other on game day, but every other day of the year you're friends."

The scene at downtown bars ranged from the cramped, noisy atmosphere of Village Idiot to the open seats and relative calm at Delaney's Music Pub, where bartender Daniel Anderson said the crowds had been much bigger for the World Cup.

Fans of all stripes seemed to agree on one thing, though: Tuesday night was do or die.

"I'd say if we're going to do it, we're going to do it tonight," said Travis Powell, a baseball coach at Irmo High who was watching the game at Carolina Ale House. "I've been a Gamecock fan too long not to know that."

Back at Village Idiot, cheers erupted periodically, from the traditional call-and-response "GAME … COCKS!" to the humming wail of a vuvuzela player at the corner of the bar.

But when the game was finally decided in the bottom of the 11th inning, all order dissolved as beer geysers sprung up around the room.

Jordan Gregory, a recent USC graduate who took his shirt off and danced on the bar after watching the game at Village Idiot, raised his voice over the cacophony. "Nobody can be better than us," Gregory said. "Especially Clemson."