Sapakoff: Gamecocks agony, College of Charleston joy and Clemson

The 2014 NCAA Tournament was hard on Clemson head coach Jack Leggett and South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. (Mark Crammer, Anderson Independent-Mail)

ESPN during its NCAA tournament coverage did a dugout interview with Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell, the former Citadel assistant and the first person Clemson should call when Tigers head coach Jack Leggett is let go. He was asked about the rash of low-scoring upsets.

"There's a lot of parity in college baseball," McDonnell said.

We know in the Palmetto State.

The College of Charleston is the parity poster team.

Clemson was sent home by Xavier.

South Carolina learned the long, hard way Sunday night as formerly maligned Maryland on its way out of the ACC won its first regional.

The host Gamecocks, dispatched to the loser's bracket by the No. 2-seeded Terrapins one night earlier, were eliminated from the Columbia Regional in a 10-1 pummeling.

South Carolina is 18-0 against all other foes in NCAA Tournament games at Carolina Stadium, but went 0-2 against the Big Ten-bound Terps over consecutive punchless nights.

"We obviously struggled but we had a lot of balls that were hit right at people, too," center fielder Tanner English said. "We were kind of getting under some balls and things just weren't really rolling our way and everything was rolling their way."

The rarefied standard of South Carolina baseball built with national championships in 2010 and 2011 means this season wasn't good. The Gamecocks reached a super regional last season but took a step backward in Chad Holbrook's second year as head coach.

It was a sudden, sad jolt for a core group of veteran players with a trip to the College World Series on their resumes - Jordan Montgomery, Grayson Greiner, Joey Pankake, Connor Bright, Kyle Martin, Joel Seddon and English. Some will leave via the Major League Draft.

"They're great kids," Holbrook said. "They're baseball rats. I hate it ends like this for them, and I take some responsibility in that - not helping them more than I did. There's no good way to end the season, especially with good kids that have given us everything that they had. It's a special group. Those kids won a lot of games here."

The flipside is the College of Charleston, in firm control of everything but the weather at the Gainesville Regional. The Cougars, though treated unfairly by the NCAA Tournament committee, technically are a No. 4 seed.

That is, an afterthought one victory away from a super regional.

Host team Florida was the No. 2 national seed - the highest seed ever to go 0-2 in the tournament. But parity is a bracket-wide thing, mostly because of heavyweight performances on the mound.

No big surprise. A Boston College lefty named Andrew Chin beat Clemson on the last weekend of the regular season, handing Tigers ace Daniel Gossett his first loss of the year.

"Everybody has pitching," Leggett explained after that game.

So far this NCAA Tournament there have been three 1-0 games (winners include Kennesaw State, Jackson State and Sam Houston State) and eight 2-1 games.

TCU had to go 22 innings before subduing Sam Houston State, 3-2.

The South Carolina offense was no match for Maryland pitchers Jake Drossner, Tayler Stiles and Bobby Ruse.

Just as the Gamecocks struggled with Mike Shawaryn and friends the night before.

Gossett's second loss of the season came Saturday, to Xavier of all teams. X marks the spot where Clemson's season came to an end in Nashville, outpitched and outscored 24-5 in two NCAA Tournament losses.

Dan Radkovich, Clemson's athletic director, understandably will take his time deciding what to do about Leggett, whose program has slightly regressed for four consecutive postseasons since reaching the College World Series in 2010. Mostly, Leggett deserves a decent official hearing. And there's no rush: It's possible that at least one of the Leggett replacement candidates Radakovich is considering remains active in the NCAA Tournament.

Oh, the irony.

There might not be as many shutouts next year. NCAA Division I teams in 2015 will begin using a baseball with flatter seams, a switch designed to boost offense. Studies show the flat-seamed baseball, similar to one used by professional minor leagues, travels approximately 20 feet longer.

Leggett was one of the primary advocates for the new baseball.

Everybody will still have good pitching next season. At least South Carolina and Clemson will get some extra distance on their hits as they try to keep up with the College of Charleston.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.