South Carolina baseball's second series at Baum Stadium this season ended with the same results as the first time, with the Gamecocks losing two of three.
After Monday's defeat eliminated USC from the NCAA tournament Super Regionals, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn made it clear — the Carolina team his squad defeated to get to the College World Series was far different from the one he faced in April.
"We didn't see (in April) the South Carolina we saw after they left here, and we're watching on TV and they're going and winning and sweeping and they won four or five series in a row," Van Horn said. "But we saw them up there in the (SEC) tournament — they just seemed a lot more confident, and their lineup, to me, was a little scary."
Van Horn, who has been at Arkansas since 2003 and made five trips to Omaha in that time, praised the Gamecocks and first-year coach Mark Kingston, pointing in particular to the team's power numbers — USC hit seven home runs this weekend.
"I sit around and watch batting practice ... they were lighting it up this weekend," Van Horn said. "You saw how many home runs they hit against us? Well, I'm surprised they didn't ask for more baseballs, because they were running out of them, they were hitting so many out of the park in BP."
A large component of South Carolina's success, in Van Horn's eyes, was the number of veteran players Kingston had in his lineup.
"They started five seniors. They had a very old team, and they had a team with a lot of what I call 'want-to.' Those guys wanted to win. It's either the end of their careers or they're going to pro ball, and those teams are dangerous," Van Horn said. "And that's what I saw, just a team that really, really played hard. Give Mark and his staff credit, I told him after the game, 'You guys did a great job.' "
Van Horn also said when he saw the tournament bracket unveiled on May 28, he was certain South Carolina would win its regional in Greenville, N.C., despite being the No. 2 seed to host East Carolina.
Sure enough, they did, and Van Horn stressed that going into the Super Regional, he was concerned about the Gamecocks, especially because the two teams already had faced off four times before, even though Arkansas had won three of those contests.
"They got off to a very slow start, and they kicked it into gear and they were as good as anybody down the stretch. Whenever you face a team seven times, I just knew it was going to be really difficult to beat them two out of three," Van Horn said. "That's just the way game works when two teams are really good."
And while USC's 2018 campaign is over and Arkansas is looking to claim the first national title in program history, Van Horn also noted that he expects plenty of future competition from Kingston's club, as well as a trip to Omaha for them.
"I'm sure they'll be sitting where we're sitting down the road," he said.