COLUMBIA — Mission accomplished.
South Carolina completed its preseason goal Sunday by winning one of the 16 host sites for the NCAA softball tournament. The Gamecocks will start their sixth straight postseason Friday at Beckham Field, where they’re 25-2 this year.
USC, the Columbia Regional’s top seed, will play fourth-seed UNC Greensboro at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Hofstra and Liberty fill out the regional and play each other at 5 p.m. on Friday.
The Gamecocks (45-14) just missed a top-eight national seed after finishing third in the SEC and runner-up in the SEC Tournament. That would have assured home-field advantage in the super regionals as well, but if USC advances and anyone but No. 8 national seed Arizona State wins in its corresponding bracket, the Gamecocks could end up hosting the supers anyway.
The Gamecocks are the No. 9 seed in the entire tournament.
USC twice beat Hofstra during this year’s opening tournament in Miami, and topped Liberty in a Columbia tournament in March. The Gamecocks are 8-1 against UNCG all-time, last playing the Spartans in 2016.
USC wanted to do enough to host this season after five consecutive years of being sent far away for the postseason. The Gamecocks reached the regional final in three of those years but lost to the home team every time.
USC will have the chance to return the favor this year. The Gamecocks are hosting for the first time since 2007 and the first time as a No. 1 seed since 2002 (in 2007, USC hosted but was the No. 4 seed among N.C. State, Oregon and Penn State). They have never hosted a home super regional under the current playoff format.
The Gamecocks are experiencing their winningest season under coach Beverly Smith (her previous high was 38 wins) and their best season since 2002, when they won 46 games and hosted a six-team regional in the pre-national seed format. USC is 39-43 lifetime in the NCAA Tournament and reached the Women’s College World Series in 1983, 1989 and 1997.