By Jeff Owens/Photo by Jenny Dilworth
HOOVER, Ala. — South Carolina was eliminated from the SEC Tournament Saturday after getting knocked out by LSU 11-0.
Now comes the hard part. The wait.
The Gamecocks, 35-25 after going 3-2 in the conference tournament, will be on pins and needles the next two days, waiting to see if they get into the NCAA Tournament. Selection day is on Monday and the Gamecocks are on the bubble after finishing 13-17 in the SEC during the regular season.
Despite Saturday's blowout loss, which came with a depleted pitching staff against one of the hottest teams in the country, head coach Chad Holbrook believes his team has a strong case for making the NCAA Tournament.
"There are going to be some axioms moments but I think our numbers will speak for themselves compared to other bubble teams," Holbrook said. "Top-50 wins, top-100 wins, RPI, strength of schedule. And you factor in that, through the course of the season, maybe six or seven SEC series, we didn't have Tyler Johnson or Clarke Schmidt on the mound, and I think you can see the type of team we are when we have Tyler Johnson on the mound. You saw that this week.
"There are a lot of bubble teams out there and a lot of teams that have some anxious moments but when you compare our resume with the other teams on the bubble and how we played this week and having a healthy Tyler Johnson, we can win a Regional and a Super Regional in a heartbeat."
The question is, will they get that chance. Though the Gamecocks lost eight straight SEC series, they were never swept and lost some heartbreaking games that could have decided the series. "There were six or seven pitches — not six or seven games, but six or seven pitches — when we were in position to win the series on the road," Holbrook said.
Their 3-2 run in Hoover, which included wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt, will help, as will playing in the toughest conference in the country.
South Carolina had little hope heading to Hoover, but that changed after winning three of their first four games. It was its most wins in the conference tournament since 2004, when it won it.
"Everybody had a closed book on us coming into this, and we opened that back up with our play here," junior Alex Destino said. "We are a team that, if we get in the playoffs with (starting pitchers) Wil (Crowe) and Adam (Hill), we can do a lot of things, kinda like we proved here in Hoover. Just wait and see."
After wins over Vandy, Missouri and Kentucky, Holbrook doesn't believe Saturday's 11-0 loss to LSU will hurt his team's chances.
"We were on fumes a little bit. I don't think our team should be judged on what happened today, and I don't think they will be," he said.