COLUMBIA, S.C. — All three of South Carolina's college baseball powerhouses will get to stay in the state for the opening round of the NCAA baseball tournament.
Coastal Carolina was sent to the Clemson regional, while South Carolina learned it was the No. 4 seed national as the field was announced Monday. There was one more juicy nugget, as the selection committee matched the winners of the two in-state regionals in the super regional round, meaning the Gamecocks could end up facing the Tigers or Chanticleers in a best-of-3 series to decide who goes to the College World Series.
But all three coaches insisted first things first — winning next weekend's double-elimination regional.
"We realize we're matched up together," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "But I certainly think that they've got a couple of teams to contend with up there. We've got a very difficult field."
The Gamecocks (45-14) open their regional Friday against Georgia Southern (36-24), while Stetson (41-18) plays North Carolina State (24-25) on the other side of the bracket.
Tanner wasn't ready to say whether ace Michael Roth will get the start Friday or be saved for later in the tournament.
Roth said it didn't matter because any team South Carolina faces will be tough. Stetson was in the running for a national seed for much of the season, North Carolina State swept No. 3 national seed North Carolina, and Georgia Southern's Victor Roache leads the country with 30 home runs.
What the Gamecocks need to do is put their disappointing early exit in the Southeastern Conference tournament behind them, Roth said.
"Obviously we didn't play great defense and the last two games we didn't hit well enough. So, coming into this weekend, we're going to be fired up," Roth said.
The Gamecocks have won 16 straight NCAA tournament games in Columbia, with the last loss coming in 2002, and have never lost a regional they hosted in Columbia since Tanner arrived 15 years ago.
South Carolina has been to 12 NCAAs in a row, while Coastal Carolina and Clemson have each just missed one postseason since 2001.