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South Carolina (2-1) vs. Clemson (2-0) Friday Night, ESPN, 9:00 est - South Carolina pulled out an amazing, dramatic, come from behind, 12-inning win over Oklahoma late Thursday night to stay alive in the College World Series from Omaha. With the 3-2 win, the Gamecocks set up a showdown with Clemson, where both teams are so close to playing for a national chamipionship. For Clemson fans, the first thought is that of 2002, where a nearly identical situation saw the Gamecocks win twice, and keep CU from playing for all the marbles.
This is as big as it gets as far as college baseball and rivalries go. Ok, so maybe if they met in the finals it would be bigger. Fine. But this is still pretty dadgum big. There is no love lost between Clemson and South Carolina, and what is on the line here is huge. Both of these schools LOVE their baseball programs, and neither would love anything more than the chance to play for a national title. It would be the crowning achievement to years and years of nationally ranked play. With 21 trips to Omaha combined, and not a team in Omaha now with a title, it is now or never for these two schools from the Palmetto State.
Flashback to 2002: I was a few weeks from graduating from Clemson, and I spent the day with my two roommates and two other guys watching the games from our aromatically challenged apartment in Tiger Town. Clemson simply needed to beat USC in one of two games that dreadful day, and it was on to face Texas for the national championship. My friends and I cheered loudly as Zach Green (I think that was his name), belted a home run in the first at bat of the game to give CU an early lead. But after that, it was all Gamecocks, as they won both games and went on to play (and lose to) Texas. Losing twice to South Carolina will surely be reminded to this year's squad.
South Carolina will come into tonite's game featuring Jackie Bradley, Jr. ,who got the game-tying hit for the Cocks last night. He will be a future pro, and he can produce results on offense in the blink of an eye.
Clemson, as many know, features Kyle Parker, who had 20 homers on the season, but has yet to go deep in Omaha in two games. He was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft, and certainly has a mind full of thoughts right now. CU will need him to produce on offense if they are to beat South Carolina.
But while both teams have the big name in Bradley and Parker, the two ýteams are scrappy with plenty of heart. There are no pretty boys on these two teams - just hardnosed baseball players.
We won't know until gametime, but Clemson - I would think - would send Casey Harman to the hill. Harman mowed down Arizona State over six innings Monday night, and with four days rest, that's who I would go with. But Coach Jack Leggett has a couple of other choices, so we will see.
As for USC, they have used up more arms than the Tigers thus far in the CWS, so who they will throw is a mystery to me right now.
The two teams met in the regular season, with Clemson winning two out of three. But you can throw all of that out the window in this event. Omaha is a different venue, with about 10,000 times more on the line now than back in April.
As I said above, this is huge. Outside of football, these two fan bases live and die with their baseball teams. Both schools would love a national championship on the diamond tremendously, and would appreciate it having been so close before. This game tonite will be played with a passion you can only find in playoff sports, and in fierce rivalry. It will be nerve-racking and intense, but more than anything it will be entertaining. As a fan, I want my Tigers to mash 'em and us earn our first trip to the national championship series. But it will be tough as Ray Tanner's team is good, hungry, and has new life. But Clemson is swinging a hot bat, and is very strong at getting runners on base, so we will see...
All we can do now is kick back on a Friday night and enjoy some hardcore college baseball...GO TIGERS!!!
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