COLUMBIA — First-year South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook felt an increased energy in the Gamecocks dugout at the NCAA Tournament’s Columbia Regional that he hadn’t seen all year.
“I got kind of mad, to be honest with you,” Holbrook said. “We played a lot of important games before this. Why now?”
Because it’s the NCAA Tournament. And few teams are better at home in the postseason the past decade than the Gamecocks, who won their 27th in a row on their home field Monday in defeating Liberty 6-4 and reaching the best-of-3 super regional round for the fourth straight season.
The streak began in 2002 at defunct Sarge Frye Field with a five-run rally in the ninth to oust baseball power Miami.
After 10 additional victories at “The Sarge,” the success moved over to $36.5 million Carolina Stadium the past four seasons with 16 more victories.
“They’re near impossible to beat here,” Liberty second baseman Bryan Aanderud said.
The Gamecocks (42-18) will face the Chapel Hill Regional winner.
Designated hitter LB Dantzler drove in two runs Sunday as South Carolina built a 4-2 lead before the suspension.
Liberty (36-29) did what it could to end the streak when the game, which had been suspended because of rain Sunday night, resumed in the middle of the fifth. After the Gamecocks moved in front 6-2 on RBI hits by Graham Saiko and Tanner English, the Flames rallied with runs in the eighth and ninth. They had two on and two out when reliever Tyler Webb struck out Justin Sizemore to end things.
Liberty needed to win this to force a deciding final game, yet the Big South Conference tournament champs came up short.
“I thought there was a chance,” Liberty coach Jim Toman said. “I thought it could happen tonight.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE 6, CENTRAL ARKANSAS 1
In Starkville, Miss., Hunter Renfroe had three hits and two RBI, Alex Detz and Adam Frazier each added two hits and Mississippi State easily beat Central Arkansas to win the regional.
Mississippi State (46-18) scored in four of the first six innings thanks to timely hitting and three errors by Central Arkansas (42-22).
Chad Girodo (7-1) pitched 6⅔ innings of stellar relief, striking out a career-high 12 batters.
It’s the second time in three seasons Mississippi State has advanced to the super regional round. The Bulldogs will travel to face No. 6 national seed Virginia.