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April 29, 2013
That wasn't such a chore, now was it?
It was. Of course it was. South Carolina isn't discounting how difficult it was to walk into Baton Rouge and walk out with a series victory. That's why Chad Holbrook and Tanner English each didn't pat themselves on the back too much after Sunday's 4-0 win over No. 2 LSU.
"It's a feat," English said. "They're a great baseball team. I guess things were kind of going our way this weekend."
"We handled ourselves the right way. We handled some adversity," Holbrook said. "I'm almost numb we came down here and played the way we did."
It was wonderful for the Gamecocks to win the series, and win in the circumstances that they did - coming off a befuddling loss to Gardner-Webb and having holes bored in their bats by Friday starter Aaron Nola, USC did just enough pitching and hitting to win on Saturday and then watched Jack Wynkoop twirl a masterful game on Sunday before the relief crew took it home. But there's still a long way to go.
"You're going to think this is laughable, but our goals at the start of the season -- you make the SEC tournament, you try to get a bid to the NCAA tournament," Holbrook said. "You try to simplify this thing, and hopefully you're playing your best baseball at the end of the year. Hopefully this win will give our team -- not that they didn't have it -- will give us a lot of confidence as we go into the stretch run of the season."
The crucial nine-game SEC stretch - Kentucky, LSU and Vanderbilt - has begun with a 5-1 record. USC has already clinched a winning record in it.
But now that they're back in the mix for a national seed (the LSU series win, barring a complete bottoming-out, should give them enough juice to at least get a regional host) they want to keep it going. Another formidable challenge waits this weekend - Vanderbilt, having just broken USC's record for the best SEC start through 21 games, comes to town with a ridiculous 19-2 SEC record.
USC will get through exams this week, rest some sore bodies with no midweek game, and prepare. The main thing to remember is what the Gamecocks did to win the LSU series - patient hitting, clutch pitching, for sure, but English brought forth another reason.
"We all had a blast, and that's half the battle," English said. "You go out there and have fun, you're going to play your best baseball."
There was no tightness during the series, especially the last two games. Even on Friday, the Gamecocks lost because Nola is in a groove where he's throwing pinheads past toothpicks. USC was relaxed and did the little things right - in short, exactly what it didn't do against the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Yet, the increased confidence gained isn't bleeding into the Gamecocks sitting around talking projections. They played a great series and won it, but LSU is in the past. Vanderbilt, or Vanderbilt on Friday, is in the immediate future, and there are 10 games after that, then the postseason.
"I'm thinking about Friday night," Holbrook said. "Too much can happen, too many teams can win or lose, so much is out of your control. I'm not thinking about NCAA tournament seedings, tournament stuff, I'm just trying to win the next game."
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