Time on their hands

OMAHA, Neb. -- Having a couple of days off is something new for the Gamecocks. But they're keeping it loose as they almost always do. And keeping perspective, too.

After a dramatic run through the loser's bracket of the 2010 College World Series, South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner and his team may have felt a little out of place when they realized they had two days off before their next game.

The Gamecocks are 2-0 in Omaha for the first time under Tanner after beating Virginia 7-1 Tuesday night.

But then again, this team never really seems to let anything bother them.

"I'd definitely rather have the time off because it means we're in the winner's bracket and we're not one loss from going home," junior pitcher Michael Roth said. "So it's good to have a game to play with, not that we necessarily want to do that. We're just having a lot of fun."

Part of Wednesday's schedule involved a trip for the second straight year to the Children's Hospital & Medical Center.

"I think our players understand that this is what real life is about," Tanner told GamecocksOnline.com. "We're playing a game, we're trying to win -- and it's important, it's a big deal -- but this is what life is all about. I think it's important that they understand perspective more than anything, and they do."

Carolina also worked through a short practice session at Creighton University and will likely do so again Thursday.

The light workout featured batting practice, groundball work and a righties vs. lefties home run derby towards the end.

"Everybody's out here joking around," Jackie Bradley, Jr. said. "Even the pitchers might get a chance to hit a little bit this time."

"I think that these practice days help us because were not out here all tense and serious we're just having fun," Roth said.

Tanner said that he didn't always run his practices that way. But very early in his coaching career he learned that long practices weren't the way to go, especially when the season was underway.

"The late Jimmy Valvano told me that that was unnecessary and it wasn't good for your team," Tanner said. "That was one of those developmental things as a coach.

"He always emphasized to me that long (practices) are for coaches not for players."

While his players are enjoying the light practices, the real pressure right now may be on Tanner and pitching coach Jerry Meyers as they decide who to pitch Friday night -- Tanner has indicated they'll decide between Roth and freshman Forrest Koumas.

There are a number of factors that go into that decision, he says.

"Well, No. 1, is Roth ready to go? If he is ready to go, how do you use him? Do you use him now or do you wait and see if you win [and if] you lose, you use him then? You get to use him twice. I mean all those things come into play.

"Are we going to play straight through or are we going to have a rain day, I mean it's a battle. But certainly, Roth has been our best guy. You want him out there as often as you can, so that's the thought process of getting him back out there but we just haven't made a decision."

Tanner says he'll likely defer to Meyers in the end but it's a decision they'll wrestle with during the two days they have off. Despite Roth throwing 120+ pitches, he should be good to go, health-wise according to Tanner, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll pitch.

"From when you're sitting where we are, if you're going to try to win that next game, do you want your best guy out there if he's available or do you hold him? Some teams will say, well you've got a mulligan, you can lose a game and go to the next game, but do you want to do that?"

It's something the coaching staff may struggle with over the next few days, but Tanner expects his team to be as loose as ever. He expects they'll spend their time off having fun, as always, but also doing what they're supposed to do.

"It's all about perspective and getting your rest and doing things you're supposed to do, Tanner says. "And I don't see any reason, regardless of what happens in the next few days, our guys approach things as good as you can approach them at this level.

"I love that about this group."

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