As his team prepared to head to Omaha, Neb., in pursuit of a third straight college baseball national title, South Carolina coach Ray Tanner heaped praise Wednesday on the fans who came out to wish it well.
“Many years ago, I became the head coach here, and I knew we had great tradition,” Tanner said. “I knew we had great fans, and I knew if we could put a pretty good team on the field that you would make a difference and give us an opportunity to play among the best teams in the country and you have done that.”
Approximately 750 fans showed up at Carolina Stadium and formed a human corridor for the players to walk through as they left their locker room and boarded the team bus, which was scheduled to take them to a noon flight to Nebraska. The Gamecocks will hold a 4 p.m. central time practice in Omaha.
“Thank you for your enthusiasm. Thank you for your passion. Thank you for your inspiration,” Tanner said. “These guys are good players, but it makes a difference when you show up and you become that 10th man.”
School president Harris Pastides also addressed the crowd, leading the fans in a “Game” “Cocks” cheer.
“Let’s start that cheer that all the world is going to be watching on ESPN,” he said. “There is nothing greater than the Carolina spirit.”
The Gamecocks, who won the 2010 and 2011 CWS titles, will open the double-elimination tournament on Saturday at 9 p.m. against No. 1 national seed Florida.
“Maybe the sun will shine on us and just maybe we’ll come back with another piece of hardware,” Tanner said. “I hope in 13 or 14 days, we get a chance to visit again (for a title celebration).”