The Columbia Regional was a little more exciting than the Gamecocks hoped it would be coming in, but South Carolina ultimately emerged victorious after a very long weekend. After an ugly opening loss, the Gamecocks made a run through the losers bracket, winning 4 elimination games to advance to the Super Regionals. Carolina is just the 20th team since the current tournament format began in 1999 to win a Regional after losing their first game. To make things ever better, Oklahoma State won the Clemson Regional, giving the Gamecocks the opportunity to host the Cowboys this weekend instead of traveling to Clemson to face the Tigers.
The Cowboys and the Gamecocks have not faced each other often, and Carolina lost the three previous meetings between the teams, all of which occurred in the College World Series. The three games (in 1981, 1982 and 1985) were during a period of sustained success for the Cowboys, as they made the CWS each year from 1981-1987 and finished as runner-up twice. Though the Cowboys haven't been to the CWS since 1999 and their lone national title came in 1959, they're 6th all-time in both appearances in the CWS and wins in the CWS.
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Oklahoma State is 39-20 (16-8 Big 12) and finished second in their conference behind national seed Texas Tech. The Cowboys were the #2 seed in the Clemson Regional and went 3-0 last weekend, defeating Nebraska once and Clemson twice to advance to Super Regionals. The Oklahoma State pitching staff was excellent in the Regional round, shutting out Nebraska and allowing just four total runs in two games against Clemson. In addition to a good pitching staff, the Cowboys have a great defensive team. The offense hasn't always been there for the Cowboys this season, but they've hit well over the last couple of weeks and may be hitting their stride at the right time.
South Carolina's pitching staff was also impressive in the Regional round, though in a very different way than Oklahoma State's staff. Even with starts from Clarke Schmidt and Braden Webb that were not up to their usual standard, the Carolina pitching staff managed to successfully get through five games in five days. One of the most challenging things about the NCAA tournament, particularly when a team has to play extra games due to a loss, is the way that pitching depth is taxed. It was encouraging to see the Gamecocks successfully navigate that test this weekend and it's not hard to feel good about the options that the Gamecocks have on the mound as they head into the Super Regional round.
The offense has been the biggest cause for concern for the Gamecocks this season, but their performance in the Regional, particularly in the last three games, made it look like they may have finally figured things out. Of course, this is not the first time this season that the offense seems to have "finally figured it out" and the question of whether they actually did will be answered pretty quickly. The Gamecocks scored a lot of runs over the weekend, but they'll be facing better pitching from this Oklahoma State team than they did for much of the Columbia Regional. The good news is that the Gamecocks got more contributions from throughout the lineup and from unlikely players than they have all season, and the confidence they probably gained from the offensive surge over the weekend will continue to benefit them even against stronger pitching.
Oklahoma State won't be an easy team to beat this weekend, but the Gamecocks are a force to be reckoned with too and they'll have the benefit of a strong home crowd behind them as the two teams fight for a chance to go the College World Series.
You can find all the info you need going into Super Regional weekend and full coverage of South Carolina's games here.