National implications ride on Gamecocks' final SEC series at Vanderbilt

Chad Holbrook's 17th-ranked Gamecocks face No. 18 Vanderbilt in a three-game series in Nashville beginning Thursday. (AP Photo/File)

Chad Holbrook wasn't in the mood to make a postseason pitch for his team late Tuesday night.

There's too much baseball to be played - too much that can be proven on the field - to rely on politicking now. South Carolina sits outside the national seed bubble as it approaches the final weekend of the regular season, but that can change over the next three days.

The No. 17 Gamecocks travel to Nashville for a three-game series at No. 18 Vanderbilt, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. There's no avoiding the SEC or national implications.

The winner will have an inside track to a national seed and the opportunity to host a super regional. Holbrook said his players know exactly what they're playing for this weekend.

"I think when you come to South Carolina, you know that there's going to be big series on the docket," Holbrook said. "I hope our players embrace playing in big games."

South Carolina and Vanderbilt are tied for second in the SEC East with 16-11 conference records. The SEC could potentially receive three national seeds - two from one division, one from the other - but not four. South Carolina can't afford to fall to third in the East.

Holbrook wasn't in full-blown pitch mode moments after South Carolina trounced The Citadel on Tuesday. That doesn't mean a national seed isn't important. The last two times South Carolina advanced to the College World Series, it hosted the super regional. When it won the national championship in 2010, South Carolina played through the Coastal Carolina super regional.

Holbrook has a realistic view of where his team sits a week before the SEC tournament begins. He said South Carolina has put itself in the conversation. Still, USC is ranked No. 12 in the RPI and desperately needs to pad its resume with more quality wins. A series victory on the road against Vanderbilt - ranked No. 6 in the RPI - could be enough to push the Gamecocks into a national seed.

"There's plenty of wins left," Holbrook said.

The key is to win. Against a Vanderbilt team it struggled with a year ago - losing all three games - it won't be easy. The Commodores have a deep, hard-throwing pitching staff that could give the Gamecocks' inconsistent lineup fits.

That's why South Carolina is only worried about this series, not necessarily the bigger picture. Win this weekend, and the postseason positioning will take care of itself.

"As a team, we don't really try to look at all the rankings and projections as far as postseason stuff," junior catcher Grayson Greiner said. "We're just going to go up to Vanderbilt and try to win some baseball games. At the end of the day, a lot of people on the outside really control our destiny as far as if we get to play at Carolina Stadium or if we have to travel.

"We're just going to try to take each game, and try to get a win each day, and not worry about the big picture because honestly we can't control what's on the outside and what people think, or what people say."