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Previewing the College World Series: South Carolina

This is the sixth in a series of looks at the eight teams in the College World Series.

It's tough to do what the South Carolina Gamecocks (50-14) have done this season. After winning the national championship last year in dramatic fashion, the Gamecocks are back in the College World Series trying to repeat. It wasn't all that long ago that Oregon State repeated in 2006-2007 and seems to happen every ten years (LSU 1996-1997, Standford 1987-1988). Given that pattern, it doesn't look good for South Carolina to repeat. But if you look past trends and superstitions, the Gamecocks look like a pretty darn good this year. After holding a spot in the top five all season and being part of the SEC regular season champion triumvirate, USC garnered the fourth national seed.

The Gamecocks got to Omaha by hosting the Columbia Regional that included (in seeding order) Stetson (43-20), NC State (35-27), and Georgia Southern (36-26). South Carolina beat Georgia Southern in their first game and won two straight over Stetson to advance to the Columbia Super Regional against the Connecticut Huskies (45-20-1). The Gamecocks swept the Huskies. This is the fourth time under SEC Coach of the Year Ray Tanner the Gamecocks have been to the CWS, with their best result being last years championship.

South Carolina's pitching staff is led by All-American Michael Roth. Roth put up unreal numbers on the season with a 13-3 record and a 1.02 ERA. Closer Matt Price also collected All-American honors, going 5-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 18 saves. Price struck out 67 batters in 50 innings and batters hit only .205 against him. South Carolina's team ERA is 2.60.

The Gamecocks offense is led by All-American Christian Walker. Walker hit a team leading .359 with 89 hits, 18 doubles, 10 home runs, and 60 RBIs. All-SEC second baseman Scott Wingo was second on the team with a .338 average with four home runs and 27 RBIs. The Gamecocks hit a respectable .296 on the season as a team.

The bottom line for South Carolina, much like a lot of these CWS teams, is that pitching and defense reign supreme. There aren't too many teams out there that have that rare blend of hitting, pitching, and fielding (i.e. their SEC East brethren Florida and Vanderbilt), but there are teams that have dominating aces capable of stopping any losing streak. The Gamecocks have Roth. Their first game will be against the Texas A&M Aggies (47-20) who many thought could have picked up a national seed (preview to come tomorrow).

The Gamecocks and Aggies square off Sunday in primetime at 7 p.m. USC's starting pitcher most likely will be Roth.