The state of South Carolina is hosting three NCAA baseball regionals – with the unranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks, No. 6 Clemson Tigers and No. 7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers all earning the right to welcome teams to the Palmetto State for postseason baseball.
Throw in Newberry and North Greenville at the Division II level, and South Carolina is actually hosting five NCAA postseason rounds – with the North Greenville Crusaders already hosting (and winning) a super regional over the Memorial Day weekend.
The Gamecocks’ designation was part of a record day for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) – which saw eight of its teams tapped to host regional action. South Carolina’s selection came as something of a surprise due to the team’s collapse down the homestretch of the 2023 season.
After racing out to a 34-6 record and the No. 3 ranking in the nation, sixth-year head coach Mark Kingston‘s team fell apart during the final stretch of the year – dropping their final four weekend series and losing 11 of their last 14 games overall. That skid resulted in the Gamecocks falling out of the Top 25 – and it nearly cost them a shot at hosting a regional, with D1 Baseball referring to their selection as a “mild surprise given their brutal last month.”
After winning national championships in 2010 and 2011 – and reaching the finals of the College World Series (CWS) again in 2012 – South Carolina has gradually fallen from the NCAA’s upper echelon.
The Gamecocks (39-19) have missed postseason play in four of the past ten years – not counting the Covid-shortened 2020 season – and have failed to move past the super regional round since their last CWS appearance more than a decade ago.
The nadir? Last year, when the program posted its first losing record since 1996.
Hoping to reorient that recent trajectory? Freshman phenom Ethan Petry. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Land O’ Lakes, Florida native has been one of the best players in the conference this year – leading his team in batting average (.376), slugging percentage (.748), home runs (22) and runs batted in (72).
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A week ago, Petry was named as a finalist for the 2023 Golden Spikes Award, presented annually to the best amateur baseball player in America.
Kingston had fans believing again earlier this spring, but an early exit from the postseason would no doubt revive criticism of his program – and reapply the heat to his seat.
As for Clemson, its selection as a regional host was a no-brainer. After limping out to a 5-6 start, first-year head coach Erik Bakich‘s team has been on fire this season – capping its remarkable comeback with a conference championship and the No. 6 ranking in the nation.
While South Carolina imploded down the stretch, Clemson has been the hottest team in the country – winning sixteen in a row and 26 of their last 28 games.
The streaking Tigers (43-17) are an early favorite to make their first CWS appearance since 2010 thanks to the dominant performance of junior Caden Grice – arguably the best two-way player in the nation. The 6-foot-6, 250, pound native of Greer, S.C. has posted an 8-1 record as a pitcher with 91 punch outs and a 3.25 earned run average. As a hitter, Grice leads the Tigers with 16 home runs and 63 runs batted in – and his .302 batting average ranks fourth on the team.
Like South Carolina’s Petry, Grice was named as a Golden Spikes semifinalist last week.
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Coastal Carolina is also hosting a regional after winning the 2023 regular season Sun Belt conference championship. The Chanticleers (39-19) have hosted four previous regionals – most recently in 2018. The 2016 national champions are in their 28th year under head coach Gary Gilmore, who has won more than 1,300 games during his career and led his teams to postseason play in 17 of the last 23 seasons.
Regional fields features four teams playing in a double-elimination format – with one winner advancing to a head-to-head super regional. Those eight winners advance to the CWS. The sixteen regionals are scheduled to be played between June 2-5, 2023. Start times for each game will be determined once television broadcast selections have been finalized.
Thirty NCAA baseball teams receive automatic bids to the 64-team postseason field, while another 34 teams receive at-large selections. CWS play begins on June 16, 2023 at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska.
Stay tuned for the full pairings later today …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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