South Carolina baseball is one of the premier programs in the nation, and they acted like it this weekend. Every year the Gamecock team is different, and each of the teams creates its own identity, but the really successful teams all share some characteristics that have become the calling card of the program. Battle and Win Anyway are two of the memorable mantras of the recent, great teams. That mindset may very well be present in this edition of the Yardcocks.
On Friday night Clemson came into Carolina stadium to try to turn the tide of a rivalry that has been dominated as of late. Jordan Montgomery didn't have his best stuff, and Clemson took advantage of it. The Tigers built a 6-1 lead and looked like they might have a nice win to begin the series. Then Clemson did what Clemson does, and Carolina did what Carolina does. Clemson plays tight, makes errors and loses; Carolina puts pressure on opposing teams, makes plays and wins. That's what happened all weekend.
Trailing 6-1, Carolina loaded the bases, and Grayson Greiner crushed a grand slam to left field. The four run fifth inning was aided by two Clemson errors. Same old story: Clemson makes errors; Carolina makes plays. The next inning had another Clemson error and two more Gamecock runs. Then Carolina added a run in both the 7th and the 8th. Meanwhile JUCO transfer Cody Mincey was busy putting up zeros. Joel Seddon then came in and closed the game out in the ninth.
On Saturday the teams went to Fluor Field in Greenville. Carolina pounded the Tigers behind 10 hits and 10 runs. Defensively Carolina yielded a pair of runs behind 6 innings from Wynkoop and 3 from Seddon. In the third inning Carolina had 5 runs on 5 hits, which were of course aided by Clemson errors, two to be exact. With the game still within reach in the ninth, Clemson just dug themselves a huge hole. Carolina picked up 5 more runs on a single hit thanks to two more Clemson errors.
Saturday's game ended strangely. While the Tigers were booting the ball around, Jack Leggett came out to argue a play. He then contacted his catcher and told him to throw to third. The throw was in time, but Tiger third baseman Jay Baum decided to stand over Mooney and yell at him. That didn't go over to well, and on deck hitter Elliott Caldwell was seen predicting what would happen if the situation escalated. Happily it didn't, and the game ended without further incident.
Sunday looked to be the Tigers day. They were playing at home, put some offense together and were pitching well. Then came the top of the ninth inning. The Tigers were in control 3-1. South Carolina had gone down in order in the eighth, and was one up one down in the ninth. Carolina then put a few runners on base, then loaded the bases, but had two outs. Brison Celek, who wasn't particularly hot lately, was inserted as the pinch hitter. With two strikes, he singled to score two runs and tie the game. Tanner English then came up and promptly fell behind 0-2. It looked like a tie might be all Carolina could manage until English doubled down the line. Leading 5-3, USC left Cody Mincey in to finish the game. Mincey had a nice 1-2-3 inning to complete the sweep.
Beating Clemson is fun. Real fun and it's especially fun when you get to see a Jack Leggett coached team do all of the wrong things because they are playing too tight. The story of the weekend will probably be about the sweep and the rivalry, but the real take away is that Carolina might be real, real good. The team looks to have the mental toughness and win anyway mentality of its legendary predecessors. If they keep playing with that attitude, we're definitely spending June in Omaha.