Notebook: Series win keeps Gamecocks in race

The race for the SEC title has finally reached a breaking point, as South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Florida will all enter the final weekend of conference play with identical 20-7 conference records. The Gamecocks were able to keep pace this past weekend as they took two out of three from nationally ranked Arkansas for a series win and a chance at a league title.

Once again, South Carolina baseball is in a familiar position. With three games left, they have a chance to bring home the program's third SEC championship under Coach Ray Tanner.

Last year, USC entered the final weekend in a similar position but dropped the series to Florida at home to finish a game behind the Gators. This season, it is the Alabama Crimson Tide that stand in the way of the Gamecocks as they try to defend Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

After a 7-1 win over Arkansas on Sunday Coach Tanner reflected on the series and what a win on senior day meant for his team.

"I was really happy today about a lot of things," said Tanner. "Our performance on the field was really good. Colby Holmes had a spectacular game. And we played good defense, (had) timely hitting, and Steven Neff had a pretty good weekend for us. Just a lot of great things."

Cocks survive close calls

Friday's 6-2 loss to Arkansas not only put the Gamecocks at a big disadvantage in trying to win the series, but it also was their third straight SEC loss, a streak rarely seen under Coach Tanner.

Things appeared to be heading in the right direction on Saturday as the Gamecocks enjoyed a 5-1 advantage in the sixth, but Arkansas rallied to tie it late before Scott Wingo produced a walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth. USC used that win as a springboard for Sunday's dominating win and came back to win yet another series and keep pace with both the Gators and ‘Dores.

"Well, emotion, momentum, and passion are so much a part of college athletics," said Tanner. "I know sometimes professionally they talk about staying level, doing your job every day, don't get too high or low, but in college athletics it's a little bit different. The game almost got away from us but we were able to win it with Wingo's swing I think it got the best of me to be quite honest with you."

Seniors going out right

The Gamecocks had six seniors playing in their final home SEC series this past weekend in Robert Beary, Jose Mata, Adrian Morales, John Taylor, Brady Thomas, and Scott Wingo. For those players who helped finally bring a national title to Columbia, it was a special day as they played one more SEC contest at Carolina Stadium.

"It was great to see," said Tanner. "There was a lot of great things happening today for our team. Senior players, that's all you can hope for on a day like today. I'm extremely proud of those guys (and) we're going to miss them. They've done a great job and and they've done it the right way, so it was a special day for us."

Tanner added that what set these seniors apart was their ability to compete at the highest level while not necessarily possessing the most talent in the world.

"Character. Make up. Intangibles. What a special group this is. You may find some better baseball players, you're not going to find better competitors. You're not going to find better people. And that's what I'm going to miss the most."

One more weekend

So now it comes down to three games. South Carolina will play at Alabama. Florida will play Kentucky at home. Vanderbilt will play at Georgia.

Each of the three teams will enter the weekend confident that they have a chance to win the conference crown.

"It's amazing," said Tanner. "I know that if you win 17 or 18 games in this league, you're pretty good. You're a pretty good baseball team and now we've got three teams that have surpassed that the kind of race that's going on that's incredible to me. It really is. Those two clubs are really, really good. It's incredible that the three of us have been so consistent."

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