March Madness has nothing on the May Weirdness associated with the unveiling Monday of a 64-car NCAA Baseball Tournament demolition derby.
Two-time defending College World Series champ South Carolina, Clemson and Coastal Carolina are packed together in the Columbia Regional with a team from Manhattan that isn't Columbia.
The College of Charleston, the only Palmetto State team sent out-of-state, is glad to squeeze into the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed.
But the Cougars won the last time they played South Carolina.
And Clemson. And Coastal Carolina.
All the victories have come since April 17.
The infield dust gets thicker.
Clemson, on the lopsided losing end against South Carolina since 2008, has a major edge if college baseball's best rivalry continues this week: No way Gamecock Nation wants a bunch of maligned, underdog Tigers with little to lose at Carolina Stadium, where South Carolina has struggled against good teams this year.
Sending Clemson to the Columbia Regional as a No. 2 seed this year defies a salesperson's logic; South Carolina doesn't need help selling tickets. But the mere thought of Tigers vs. Gamecocks on Saturday (and/or beyond) makes for delicious theater.
The only way Clemson can lose? Losing to Coastal Carolina and not showing up at the Braggin' Rights Bash.
“Everyone there is going to hate us pretty much, you know,” Clemson slugger Richie Shaffer told reporters Monday. “If there are 9,000 people there, maybe 100 will be Clemson fans, the rest will be in garnet and black. That can be a disadvantage but that can be an advantage. Sometimes you play better when everyone is against you. … It's going to be fun. It's a very hostile atmosphere for us.”
Of course, a Saturday showdown requires a Clemson victory over No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina, hardly a sure thing.
Clemson was supposed to play in Columbia last June. But the Tigers did not hold up their end of the two-for-one Super Regional bargain, losing back-to-back home games to Connecticut.
Only fans and journalists are allowed to look ahead, which is why the College of Charleston isn't peeking at No. 1 national seed Florida before facing Georgia Tech in Gainesville.
But good vibes are flying around the state like fly balls off fungo bats.
“I've always felt like our team was confident about playing against top-tier competition,” College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee said.
Lee points out that the Cougars have a handful of pitchers who played in the 2010 Myrtle Beach Regional.
Which the College of Charleston narrowly lost to Coastal Carolina, which went on to host a Super Regional but lost to South Carolina, which ended up winning a pair of elimination games against Clemson in the College World Series on the way to their first national title.
So the four Palmetto State programs are back at the postseason swing again in an already entertaining 2012.
Remember, the meaty part of our baseball season started way back in early March with South Carolina center fielder Evan Marzilli diving across a long stretch of outfield grass at The Joe to snag a two-out line drive off the bat of Clemson's Jay Baum with a runner on third.
The heroic catch, one of the most exciting single plays in series history, preserved a 3-2, 11-inning victory for the Gamecocks. The teams split the other two games in the series with home-and-home wins.
“He makes those plays all the time in practice,” Tanner said after the game.
Marzilli might have to do it again this week.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff