South Carolina's quest for a third NCAA title in a row begins Friday

South Carolina celebrated its NCAA title after beating Florida 5-2 in Game 2 of the best-of-three series last year. The Gamecocks are bringing back pitching stars Michael Roth and closer Matt Price, who will be a starter this year.

South Carolina already holds a special spot in college baseball history. After back-to-back College World Series titles, the Gamecocks will take a swing at becoming one of the sport’s rare dynasties.

 

Just the sixth school to win two consecutive championships, South Carolina begins its quest today for a third in a row as the aluminum pings of spring start up at college ballparks around the country.

The Gamecocks open up by playing host to VMI at 3 p.m.

Only Rod Dedeaux’s 1970-74 Southern California squads have won three or more consecutive national titles in Division I baseball.

“We have expectations in this program,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. “Our players have it, fans have it and we are just going to do the best we can. I have never been one to talk about the future and setting goals and objectives, all of those things. We are just trying to have a good practice and get better each time out there.”

While the Gamecocks’ lineup has a few new faces, Tanner’s pitching rotation includes two of the country’s best hurlers in left-hander Michael Roth and righty Matt Price, who’s moving from the closer’s role after saving 30 games his first two seasons.

“We want to go out there and win, and I don’t get involved in all the hoopla about hype or whatever,” said Roth, who went 14-3 with a 1.06 ERA that ranked second-best in the country. “I just come out here and try to give the team a chance to win.”

South Carolina will have plenty of competition on the road to another title.

Florida, Stanford, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Texas all appear to have championship-caliber teams.

After falling two victories shy – against the Gamecocks – of their first College World Series title, the Gators are ranked No. 1 in every major preseason poll.

Arkansas joins Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana State and Vanderbilt as teams with a legitimate shot at giving the Southeastern Conference four consecutive College World Series titles; Louisiana State University won in 2009.

TEAMS TO WATCH

ARKANSAS

LAST SEASON: 40-22, Regionals appearance

EXTRA BASES: RHP D.J. Baxendale leads staff that returns nine pitchers who threw at least 20 innings last season.

 

FLORIDA

LAST SEASON: 53-19, CWS runner up

EXTRA BASES: The Gators are ranked No. 1 in every major preseason poll while returning several big-time bats and perhaps best starting pitching trio in country (RHPs Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson and LHP Brian Johnson.

 

GEORGIA TECH

LAST SEASON: 42-21, Regionals appearance

EXTRA BASES: They tied school record with 22 wins last season in ACC, and have been to NCAA Tournament 11 times in 12 years.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

LAST SEASON: 51-16, CWS appearance

EXTRA BASES: Hard-throwing LHP Kent Emanuel had outstanding freshman season and moves into No. 1 spot in rotation as sophomore.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

LAST SEASON: 55-14, CWS champion

EXTRA BASES: Coach Ray Tanner had to retool and reload lineup after losing some major contributors, but 1B Christian Walker remains one of nation’s most powerful and productive hitters.

 

STANFORD

LAST SEASON: 35-22, Super regionals appearance

EXTRA BASES: Stanford has seven everyday starters from last year’s squad, including entire outfield.

 

TEXAS

LAST SEASON: 49-19, CWS appearance

EXTRA BASES: Longhorns have several key players back from last year’s CWS team, including LHPs Sam Stafford and Hoby Milner, who give Texas a solid 1-2 punch.

 

TEXAS A&M

LAST SEASON: 47-22, CWS appearance

EXTRA BASES: OF Tyler Naquin was Big 12 Player of the Year, led Division I players in hits with 104, topped conference in batting average and had 27-game hitting streak – one shy of school record. Also terrific defensive outfielder.

– Associated Press

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