The South Carolina Gamecocks are the No. 4 overall seed in the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament, they’re the only Southeastern Conference team that has been to the regionals each year since 2000, they’ve been to Omaha for the College World Series four times in the last 11 years, they’re the defending national champions and Georgia Southern’s got to play them on Friday.
The Gamecocks (45-14) could potentially play an in-state rival, Clemson, in the super regionals if they advance past GSU, Stetson and North Carolina State in the Columbia, S.C. regional.
So, is there any chance Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner is looking ahead to the super regionals and a potential Clemson matchup?
"Absolutely not," he said at a press conference after the regionals were announced Monday. "We realize that we’re matched up together, but I certainly think they’ve got a couple of teams to contend with up there, and we’re concentrating right now on trying to figure out Georgia Southern. … They’ve got a guy in the lineup, [Victor] Roache — 30 home runs."
Tanner is an N.C. State graduate and coached there for nine years, so he knows plenty about the Atlantic Coast Conference program, but he’s familiar with Stetson (41-18) and GSU (36-24) as well.
"Stetson’s a team that I think for a while there was talk that they could play themselves into a national seed," said Tanner. "They’re a really, really tough team. With a quick look at [the other regionals], I’ve got to think Georgia Southern is the best number four seed in the country."
Tanner’s Gamecocks haven’t faced any of the other three teams in the bracket this season, but defeated the Eagles in extra innings in 2009 and 2010.
"Coach [Rodney] Hennon has done a tremendous job over at Georgia Southern. They’re very good and they got hot at the right time," said Tanner. "We’ve got great respect for how good they are and how they play."
South Carolina faces the Eagles at 7 p.m. on Friday, and Tanner is certain the Gamecocks won’t look past Georgia Southern.
"I know that’s coach speak," he said, "but that’s really the way it is."
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.