South Carolina, tough to beat in NCAA tourney openers, faces Manhattan today

South Carolina pitcherColby Holmes will start for the Gamecocks today against Manhattan. AP/File

COLUMBIA – Manhattan faces a tall order at 4 p.m. today against South Carolina in the NCAA tournament regional at Carolina Stadium.

The Gamecocks, who won the past two national championships, are 25-2 all-time in NCAA tournament openers, with their only losses coming in 1983 to James Madison in Chapel Hill, N.C., and in 1977 to South Alabama in Columbia.

Moreover, the Gamecocks are 50-8 at home in NCAA tournament games, including 31-5 under Ray Tanner. They have won an NCAA-record 16 consecutive tournament games and have won 19 straight tournament home games dating to the 2002 Super Regional.

But the Jaspers are used to bucking trends. They lost the first game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, then won four straight games to win it – the first team ever to do that.

Today’s game will air on ESPNU.

Fourth-seeded Manhattan will start Taylor Sewitt (11-1, 2.40 ERA), who threw 22 scoreless innings and 296 pitches over three games in three days at the MAAC tournament. He won all three games.

Regional No. 1 seed and national No. 8 seed USC will start Colby Holmes (6-1, 3.39), its second-most reliable pitcher this season, and save ace Michael Roth (6-1, 2.58) for Saturday’s game, against either Coastal Carolina or Clemson.

USC is 25-20 against Clemson since the beginning of 2002. USC went 9-13 from 2002-06 and 16-7 from 2007 until now, including 6-2 since the start of the 2010 College World Series, in which the Gamecocks beat Clemson twice to reach the championship series, just as they did in the 2002 World Series.