South Carolina gained momentum and the No. 4 seed for the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament by taking two of three at Vanderbilt to close the regular season.
Whether the momentum gained in Nashville makes the trip to Hoover, Alabama with the Gamecocks for this week's SEC Tournament has yet to be determined.Martin and Mooney celebrate vs Vanderbilt
South Carolina (42-14 overall, 18-12 SEC) faces fifth-seeded Mississippi State (36-20, 18-12) in today's final game at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. As the No. 4 seed, South Carolina received a first-round bye, while the Bulldogs avoided No. 12 Georgia's upset bid with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
The Gamecocks notched their only SEC Tournament championship in 2004, but have won two NCAA College World Series titles (2010 and 2011) and made another finals appearance in 2012 despite lackluster results in SEC Tournaments.
So, might the Gamecocks' eyes already be on a bigger prize this year?
"We'll play incredible competition," said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. "You have a chance to better your resume; you have a chance to win a conference championship, and those things are enough to go down there with an incredible amount of excitement to play well."
Coach Chad Holbrook
"Again, does it determine how you'll play in the NCAA Tournament? No, it doesn't. We're living proof of that."
Holbrook easily recounted South Carolina's SEC Tournament performances leading up to recent successful College World Series runs: 0-1 in 2010, 1-2 in 2011 and 1-2 in 2012.
Even so, the Gamecocks do not appear to be taking this year's tournament lightly.
"We're going down there to try to win a conference championship," Holbrook said. "We're not going to try and set us up for the week that follows."
Holbrook would also like to stick around long enough to get a look at junior outfielder Connor Bright (.336 batting, 23 RBI) and junior infielder Max Schrock (.275 batting), both of whom are hoping to return from injuries in time for the postseason.
Holbrook said he would like to get both players some at-bats during the tournament, but won't press them into service unless they're ready to play.
The Gamecocks survived a spate of injuries during the regular season and still managed to win 40 or more games for the 15th-straight year, so managing them is nothing new for Holbrook.
"Our players are trying to get healthy," he said. "We feel great about our regular season. Being 42-14 and 18-12, considering the adversity we've been through with multiple starters out from time to time, we feel like we've had a great regular season.
"Now it's time to see if we can play in the postseason.
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