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Home sweet home: South Carolina softball to host NCAA regional

South Carolina’s historic softball season added another chapter Sunday evening.

The Gamecocks (45-14) were chosen as an NCAA regional host and will be a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2002. Games at Beckham Field will begin this weekend.

USC, the No. 9 national seed, opens against UNC Greensboro (46-11) at 7:30 p..m. Friday. In the other matchup in the regional, Liberty (47-12) faces Hofstra (40-12) at 5 p.m. Friday. Both games will stream on the WatchESPN app.

Should Beverly Smith’s club advance, it will play in the super regional round – May 24-27 – at a site to be determined. The College World Series begins May 31 in Oklahoma City. The Columbia regional winner will face the winner of the Tempe regional. Arizona State, the No. 8 national seed, is the host there and is up against Long Beach State, Ole Miss and New Mexico State.

The top eight national seeds are guaranteed to host a super regional, should they advance. USC narrowly missed that accomplishment, but the SEC was represented by Florida (No. 2) and Georgia (7). All 13 league teams made the field for a second straight year.

South Carolina is into the Big Dance for a sixth straight season. Smith, the program’s second all-time winningest coach, guided the Gamecocks to a runner-up finish in the SEC tournament for the first time since 2001.

Carolina entered the SEC tournament with an RPI of 11 and proceeded to knock off Mississippi State (RPI 20) and Arkansas (19) before narrowly falling in the championship to Florida (4).

Hosting an NCAA regional has long been the goal for these Gamecocks. Despite being picked to finish 12th in the SEC, USC went 15-9 in the league and finished third.

“We’ve talked about that openly for a couple years, since we’ve thought that’s been realistic,” Smith said in April. “But we’ve been on the road for the last five years for the NCAA tournament. This year, if we can continue to do what we’re doing, it’s a reality for us.”

Carolina has yet to advance past the regional round in Smith’s seven-plus seasons. The Gamecocks have lost at Texas (2013), Florida State (2014-16) and Arizona (2017).

USC went 25-2 at Beckham Field in the regular season. It enters the NCAA tournament winners of eight straight at home.

USC technically hosted in 2007, but as a No. 4 seed. The Gamecocks last made the CWS in 1997.


NCAA Columbia Regional

Who: South Carolina (45-14) vs. UNC Greensboro (46-11), 7:30 pm Friday; Liberty (47-12) vs. Hofstra (40-12), 5 p.m. Friday

Where: Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field, Columbia

Watch: Games will be streamed digitally though the WatchESPN app

Tickets: All session booklets for the regional are $40 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday at gamecocksonline.com or through the Carolina ticket office at 803-777-4274. Individual session tickets are on sale at ticketmaster.com for $15.