Getting over it

OMAHA, Neb. -- Ray Tanner had a strong message to his team on the bus following the Gamecocks' 2-1 loss to Arkansas Monday night.

There's an old baseball rule that many high school (and up) coaches adhere to: no noise on the bus after a loss.

The rule is put in place -- especially at the younger level -- to instill a sense of loss after a team fails to win a game. Teenagers by their very nature are immature and it just doesn't look good to have a group of guys jumping around celebrating after a loss.

But during South Carolina's bus ride back to the hotel following their 2-1 loss to Arkansas Monday night -- a short ride extended to 20 or 25 minutes due to a barricade blocking the bus' path -- the Gamecocks were a little too quiet.

Rather than yell and scream about the Gamecocks' first loss in 23 NCAA tournament tries, head coach Ray Tanner had a different message: you didn't play that bad.

"It was too quiet on the bus for me, quite honestly," Tanner said. "I like the fact that after a team loses, you get on the bus and there's a time of reflection, but I think you have to let (the loss) go as quick as you can. I've always been that way. Coaches can hang onto it, but I don't want the players to hang onto it."

It's a cliche often mentioned in sports: take 24 hours to mourn the loss, and then move on. Tanner, not one to wait around, wanted the loss out of his players' systems right then.

"As we were going up to the hotel, I said 'Hey, let this go. We played hard; we didn't play quite well enough, we didn't score, but let this go right now. It's a loss, that's all it is, you guys have done a great job, and let's flush it and get ready to play. Let's be excited. I know you can't go into the lobby and celebrate, but let's let it go. There's still life here. Let's try to regroup and try to win the next one.'"

The team spent the morning at the Omaha Children's Hospital, and Tanner believes the team practiced with the attitude he was hoping to see.

"Absolutely," said senior Adam Matthews, asked if the veterans had to lead the younger players through this situation. "We've got a key quality of veteran guys that have been here the last couple of years, so with that said, we have to pick each other up. Obviously, a loss is never fun, but with that we got some good rest last night, we've had a good practice (Tuesday) out here, [we're] swinging the bats pretty well, so hopefully we go into (Wednesday) with a lot of positive energy and a lot of excitement."

That's just the type of leadership Tanner hopes to see from his veterans.

"They've been the backbone of this team the entire year," Tanner said. "I think that even [with] the young guys, we've played a lot of baseball now. We're haven't been a team that could just show up and win. We have to work extremely hard; we have to play well, and they get that part."

And he hopes that's just what they do Wednesday night against Kent State.

"This is a chirpy group [usually] and I think they were just hurt by the loss, and that's okay. But, let it go, I'll stay up [worrying] for everybody. You don't have to stay up; go to sleep, and let's get it done the next time we play."

Montgomery takes the hill

South Carolina freshman pitcher Jordan Montgomery is in a familiar position and a not-so-familiar position, all at the same time.

Montgomery who will start South Carolina's elimination game against Kent State Wednesday night has never thrown a pitch in the College World Series. But the tall, baby-faced freshman has been called on before when the Gamecocks needed him to step up the most, and he's delivered each time.

"I'm anxious to see him out here on this stage," Tanner said. "He's been a guy that's picked us up during the year when we really needed to be picked up. He's had some great starts for us, and certainly we're in that do-or-die game, so hopefully, he'll have a good one."

It wasn't a do-or-die game, but it certainly felt like it early in the season when the Gamecocks were facing Tennessee on a Saturday night fresh off the Vols defeated the Gamecocks one-two combo of Michael Roth and Matt Price. The Gamecocks were 3-7 in SEC play and in desperate need of a Saturday start.

Montgomery not only surrendered just an earned run on three hits in eight innings but spurred a 12-game SEC win streak and solidified the No. 2 starter's spot for most of the season. He has his own struggled late in the season, but bounced back with strong performances in the SEC tournament and Columbia Regional.

"I guess they have confidence and they believe in me," says Montgomery, who is never one for many words.

Tanner says that he and pitching coach Jerry Meyers sat down and discussed the many scenarios available to them and the fact that the Gamecocks need three wins in a row to make it to the CWS Finals for the third straight time.

The verdict was simple: if they were going to make it, then Montgomery (and Forrest Koumas) was going to have to pitch at some point, and it made sense to give Roth another day's rest rather than start him with just three days off.

"I'm just ready for the opportunity," Montgomery said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to last as long as I can and get the ball over."

"THey're a good team," he added of Kent State. "Definitely, we can't overlook them. We're just going to have to play our best baseball and see what happens."

Tanner admitted that he avoided his ace Roth, who he admittedly sometimes has trouble saying no to.

"I didn't know how he was going to feel about it, but he and Coach Meyers talked it over," Tanner said. "They talked about all the situations that Coach Meyers and I talked about. I think Michael understands the scenario."

Tanner says that from this point on, much like with Colby Holmes Monday, all pitchers will have a short leash when a big inning could mean the season is over.

"Everybody is available (Wednesday) except for Webb. He threw 82 pitches, I believe it was," he said. "All hands on deck."

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