Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill. - Muhammed Ali
It's that time of the year.
The Gamecocks are two games away from reaching the mecca of college baseball: The College World Series.
It's almost unimaginable that South Carolina would find themselves in this type of position - again. Especially after the 1-5 start in the SEC and the transition from a veteran experienced ball club to a new lineup with a lot of youth.
However, here we are, waiting to see if the Gamecocks can once again capture the magic and finish the year holding that special trophy. The one that had escaped the clutches of South Carolina athletics for decades. The one that seemed unattainable.
This is what it's like to Play Like A Champion.
This year has been a special season for the Gamecocks. It has shown what an incredible coaching staff the Gamecocks have led by coach Ray Tanner. He, and the rest of the coaching staff, made the adjustment two years ago to take this program to the next level. It seemed that the Gamecocks really, and truly, embraced this idea of playing as a "team" and winning whatever way was possible. And they had fun doing it.
This year is no different. The team knew the challenges at hand when the entire infield, except for Christian Walker, had to be replaced. The Gamecocks also needed to find a new left-fielder. There was a lot of new faces in the lineup and you just never knew what kind of impact that would have on this new-found team chemistry.
It took a few tough SEC series, but these guys came together and that's when the winning started. South Carolina went on a stretch of 12 straight SEC wins this year after falling behind in the SEC. This winning streak propelled them to the top of the SEC enabling them to contend for an SEC Championship. South Carolina wound up as SEC East champions. Another title and another notch in the belt of the Gamecocks. While this was a nice way to recap a great year, it's not the main prize.
South Carolina wants that NCAA Championship. This team wants to win and wants to finish their business. Only one team has won the NCAA Championship three straight seasons - Southern Cal. Something tells me South Carolina would like to make Southern Cal referred to as "that other USC."
So the time is now. The Gamecocks have won an NCAA-record 19 straight games in the NCAA Tournament. The last team to beat them is the Oklahoma Sooners, who faces off with the Gamecocks Saturday night in the Super Regionals. Oklahoma's coach has wanted to face off with the Gamecocks since being knocked out of the tournament in 2010. He feels that the Gamecocks got all the breaks in their extra inning victory.
Those aren't breaks. South Carolina made their own luck off of the will to win. The Gamecocks played like a champion and have been since that special night in 2010.
Now the question is - Will the Gamecocks play like a champion?
We'll find out Saturday night at 8:00 pm.