COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s college baseball powerhouses will meet in Columbia for the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Clemson and Coastal Carolina are heading to the regional hosted by No. 8 national seed South Carolina, and Manhattan rounds out the four-team, double-elimination field.
South Carolina hasn’t missed an NCAA tournament since 1999, while Clemson has missed the postseason just once since 1987 and Coastal Carolina has been in 11 of the past 12 tournaments.
The No. 2 seed Tigers (33-26) will open against the No. 3 seed Chanticleers (41-17) at noon Friday, with the Gamecocks (40-17) starting their attempt at a third consecutive national title against Manhattan (33-25) at 4 p.m. The winner of the regional will play the winner of the Charlottesville, Va., regional, which includes Virginia, Oklahoma, Appalachian State and Army. South Carolina will play host to the super regional if it wins.
South Carolina has won four in a row over Clemson in the postseason, all of them in the College World Series. The teams last met in the NCAA tournament before Omaha in a 1980 regional won by the Tigers.
The addition of Coastal Carolina to the regional makes it even more intriguing. The Gamecocks and Chanticleers have played just twice since 2002, a sweep of the 2010 super regional by the Gamecocks that denied the Chanticleers their best shot so far at making the College World Series.
Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore wasn’t too thrilled when he saw the bracket.
“I think for our state it’s kind of a knock a little bit that they put three teams from our own state in one regional where only one’s going to have a chance to advance out of it,” he told The Sun News of Myrtle Beach.
Clemson and Coastal Carolina met only once this season, with the Chanticleers winning 10-7 on April 24 in Clemson.
Manhattan lost its first game at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, then
won four in a row, including a pair of extra-inning wins over Canisius, to get the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament bid.
Florida (42-18) is the top seed for the 64-team tournament. The other national seeds, in order, are UCLA, Florida State, Baylor, Oregon, North Carolina and LSU.
The regional packed with South Carolina teams helped overshadow that the Gamecocks are one of the eight national seeds in the tournament after starting the Southeastern Conference season at 1-5. The seeding keeps South Carolina at home during the regional and super regional rounds, where they have won 19 straight postseason games. The Gamecocks also have a 16-game NCAA tournament winning streak as they try to become the first team to win three national titles in a row since Southern California won five straight championships in the early 1970s.
“The experience is a big deal,” Tanner said of his team. “But does it guarantee you anything? Absolutely not.”