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Baseball: Disher serves up tournament to remember

Phil Disher spoke Friday like his college career was at an end. It probably isn’t, but it would’ve been quite a finish.

The senior was South Carolina’s best player in the SEC tournament, homering three times with six RBIs. He also caught all three games after spending most of the year as the designated hitter.

“You hear about (Justin) Smoak, (James) Darnell, but Disher hits them a long way,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.

Disher is a rare four-year player, having passed on going pro last year after getting picked in the 45th round of the major league draft by San Francisco. Whether or not he raised his stock this year, he’s had a surprising career for someone who came to USC on academic scholarship and redshirted as a freshman.

“I think Disher and I both came to Carolina at the same time, 12 years ago,” Tanner quipped. “He’s an old-fashioned player. He’s a throwback. He wasn’t good enough when he came into our program. And he worked, and he was patient, and he made himself better.”

“I’m just glad I got the opportunity to come here, and glad I got the chance to play and get more in the lineup,” said Disher, who tied Steve Pearce on USC’s all-time list with 42. “I’ve just enjoyed my whole time.”

Where to now? Tanner said he expects the Gamecocks to be kept close to home when the NCAA tournament field is announced Monday.

The NCAA tries to take geography into account, but there have been exceptions: Oregon State played at Virginia last year, and Michigan played at Vanderbilt. Both traveling teams won those regionals.

Tanner expects to go to one of four ACC sites, listing Georgia Tech, N.C. State, North Carolina and Florida State. He also thinks staying in state and playing at Coastal Carolina is a possibility.

“Wherever they send us I’m gonna be delighted to go,” Tanner said.

Dyson the ace? All indications are redshirt freshman Sam Dyson will get strong consideration to pitch the opener of the regional. Dyson pitched 6ð scoreless innings against LSU on Wednesday.

Tanner wouldn’t peg the chances at 100 percent that Dyson will anchor the postseason rotation — but added that they were “good.”

“Based on what he did here he made a loud statement in my eyes that he can handle what he will deal with,” Tanner said.

Hoover post-mortem. The Gamecocks (38-21) finished 1-2 in Hoover and are now 5-8 here since winning the tournament in 2004. They did improve their home run totals in big Regions Park, thanks to Disher, who hit three of their four. Entering this season they had six homers in their previous 14 games at the park. ... This was the first time Vanderbilt had eliminated South Carolina from the SEC tournament. USC had eliminated the Commodores twice, including the 2004 championship game. ... Blake Cooper’s eight strikeouts on Friday were a career-high for the sophomore.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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