A decade after I graduated the University of South Carolina, I get a chance to act like a complete buffoon on Monday night. Some folks who know me might say I get that opportunity every night.
The Gamecocks have a shot to win back-to-back College World Series titles in Omaha, Nebraska if they can score more runs than the Florida Gators in two of three games in the Championship Series.
Objectivity doesn’t live where I watch these baseball games. I don’t have to cover the team, therefore I can (and will) holler, scream, curse and cheer on every pitch. Apologies in advance to my neighbors and followers on Twitter.
South Carolina fans aren’t exactly used to this. When I matriculated around Columbia, the Gamecocks lost 21 consecutive football games. Do you know how hard that is to accomplish? We actually tore the goalpost down after breaking that streak – and the week after that. We’re not used to winning.
That’s why this ride is so much fun. Last year, South Carolina topped rival Clemson twice to advance to the Championship Series and beat UCLA in walk-off style. These moments rekindle old friendships. Sports are the common language that everyone speaks.
That’s what made last Friday night more thrilling than Katy Perry’s. Facing the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers for a shot at the title for a second straight season, the Gamecocks made their fans reach for the Pepcid AC early and often. Virginia’s starter, an absolute freak by the name of Danny Hultzen, struck out eight of the first nine batters of the game. You don’t see that anywhere.
A funny thing happened on the way to a certain win for the Cavaliers. Hultzen came out of the game. He was sick. Sick enough to strike out almost every batter he saw and sick enough to stay on the bench for the next ten innings. It was the most important break of a 13-inning game that lasted an eyelash under four and a half hours. 389 pitches after ESPN missed the first one on Friday night, South Carolina won on a walk-off bunt that morphed into an error and ended with a bunch of happy Gamecocks at home plate.
A reporter who covers the team for a Columbia, South Carolina TV station doesn’t think this excitement pushes the baseball team past the true love of the Carolinas. “I think they would trade a SEC football title for two CWS titles,” she tweeted me before the first pitch on Monday.
Baseball acts as a summer fling for those Gamecock fans in Columbia and points elsewhere. The marriage between college football and the South will live on for at least another century.
Then again, flings really are the most fun.
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