COLUMBIA – Robert Beary imagined an even better NCAA regional tournament than the one he put together on his home field.
The South Carolina catcher had two hits and an RBI in the Gamecocks' 8-2 victory over Stetson on Monday that clinched the NCAA Columbia Regional.
Beary, who was named the tournament's MVP, hit a grandslam in Saturday's 11-5 win over the Hatters. He was due to bat Sunday night with bases loaded when play was halted because of a storm that knocked out power to Carolina Stadium.
Beary was so keyed up waiting for the at bat he said he dreamed he bounced a ball into the stands for a ground-rule double and more RBIs.
The reality was that Beary ended his nearly 17-hour wait with a foul out to the catcher.
"The last couple of times I put some good swings on it though," Beary said.
Beary went 5-for-11 in the three NCAA tournament games with five RBIs. He tripled and scored in the third inning, then had an RBI-single in the fourth as the defending national champion Gamecocks (48-14) took a 3-1 lead they wouldn't relinguish when the suspended game resumed Monday.
"We've been working hard on our hitting," Beary said. "I got the opportunity to play and catch and hit. Yeah, I was locked in."
Several other Gamecocks were locked in as well. Evan Marzilli led off the game Sunday with a homer and had two RBIs. Star closer Matt Price entered in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and allowed only one run en route to his 17th save and second of the regional.
"Getting out of that inning was the difference in the whole ballgame," Tanner said.
The Gamecocks, seeded fourth nationally in the NCAA tournament, have won 17 straight postseason games at home dating back to 2002.
They'll have the chance to extend that streak next week as they host the best-of-3 super regional series against either Clemson or Connecticut.
If it's the rival Tigers, Tanner knows how crazy it could get.
"We can't build a baseball field over at Williams-Brice?" Tanner joked, referring to South Carolina's 80,000-seat football stadium.
South Carolina appeared ready to break the game open Sunday night, ahead 4-1 and the red-hot Beary due up. Then came a powerful storm system that scattered debris, cut power to the stadium and sent everyone home for a break.
Stetson coach Pete Dunn said it was just what his team needed after it had played d earlier Sunday to reach the night contest.
"It was a good change of pace for us," he said.
The Hatters (43-20) nearly made a game of it. They loaded the bases in the seventh on singles by Trey Blackman and Sean Emory and a walk to Jeff Simpson. That's when Tanner went to Price.
Robert Crews grounded a ball to third that Adrian Morales threw wild to first, pulling Christian Walker off the bag and helping cut South Carolina's lead to 4-2. Price got Ben Carhart to fly out to shallow right field, and cleanup hitter Nick Rickles grounded out to second.
"Coming in you don't expect that," Price said. "But you've got to keep fighting."
The game got away from Stetson, the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season champs, when South Carolina scored four times in the ninth.
The Hatters were picked to finish no higher than fifth this season. "We didn't get much credit earlier in the year," Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. "These guys failed to believe that. We really battled today."
John Taylor (5-1), the third of four South Carolina pitchers, got the victory. Stetson starter Austin Perez (2-3) gave up four runs in 4 1-3 innings for the loss.
When it was over, the Gamecocks hugged and high-fived in a muted celebration. They know, Price said, there's more to accomplish.
Winning the regional is big, he said, "but at theh same time we're trying to win and keep winning."