The Gamecocks came very close to returning to Omaha for a fourth-straight year. Unfortunately, close was all they'd get this year, as they went down to UNC two games to one, losing the rubber match this afternoon 5-4. The Gamecocks finished the season 43-20.
This is a series that USC may long regret. Although you have to give credit to North Carolina for doing what it needed to do to advance, USC was its own worst enemy in this series. Mistakes and poor fundamentals cost USC the first game of the series, and they played a big role in the final loss, too. In the fatal sixth inning, a costly throwing error by Kyle Martin allowed one run to score, while the typically precise Tyler Webb walked a run in against the ninth hitter after going up in the count 0-2. Mistakes hurt Carolina in other innings, too. Failed bunt attempts by Joey Pankake and Connor Bright may have cost Carolina additional runs. Better fundamental execution on any one of these plays might have made the difference for USC, but alas, it wasn't to be.
Some in the fanbase are already drawing attention to the fact that this Carolina team failed to do what some of Ray Tanner's teams did so well, namely, the little things. It's a fair criticism in some respects. The culprit could be any number of things--lesser, inexperienced players; subpar leadership from the upperclassmen; the coach failing to keep his players focused. In any event, it's premature to be too harsh on Chad Holbrook. That's not to say that I'm happy with how the season turned out. For Carolina baseball, Omaha is the goal, and anything less is a disappointment. However, failing to make Omaha doesn't make this team an abject failure or call the coach's abilities into question. Holbrook's a first-year coach coming in after a tough act to follow in Tanner, and with a lot of production to replace from departed Carolina legends like Michael Roth and Christian Walker. Overall, Holbrook had a good year in which he got us very close to a return to Omaha. With time, he'll get us back there.