It's that time of the year folks.
South Carolina baseball is back.
The Gamecocks once again are considered one of the top teams in the country and are coming off back to back national championships. This is officially an "elite" program. You know when you think of Alabama in football or North Carolina in basketball? Well that's how you should think of the Gamecocks when it comes to college baseball.
Ray Tanner has elevated this program to new heights in recent years. There is a new stadium that is envied all across the country and recruits from all over come to Columbia for a chance to play big-time college baseball. This team was always one of the best in the country year in and year out. All that seemed to change in 2010 when the Gamecocks won the College World Series.
So what happens when you win it big? Expectations.
I'm sure South Carolina fans weren't expecting another College World Series run and national championship in 2011 but the expectations were there to be in the running. So what happened? Another miraculous run at a national championship and the Gamecocks were once again kings of college baseball.
Surely the expectations are at an all-time high, right?
I'm here to say....it's okay to have expectations. This is what happens when you have a winner. This is what South Carolina baseball has done to the fans of this team. They've built up the expectation level to a point that we should make the College World Series every year and then we'll see what happens.
2012 should be no different. Sure, the Gamecocks are replacing the majority of their infield but look at the guys coming back. Michael Roth, Matt Price, Forrest Koumas, Christian Walker, Evan Marzilli, Adam Matthews and the list goes on and on. These guys aren't fresh faces with no battle wounds whatsoever. These are guys that have driven the success of this program the past two seasons and will be the driving force for USC to make a run in 2012.
Throw in newcomers like Tanner English, LB Dantzler, Grayson Greiner, Evan Beal and Joel Seddon and you got the right mix of veterans and fresh faces to give opposing teams a run for the money. This team is built the right way with a top notch pitching staff and clutch hitting. The coaching staff of Ray Tanner, Chad Holbrook, Jerry Meyers and Sammy Esposito have everything you would want and need in a group of coaches to prepare these young men for battle.
There's a lot to love about the 2012 version of the South Carolina baseball team. This is another special group of players that have a special bond that should carry them forward like it has the past few seasons. They'll miss Scott Wingo and Jackie Bradley Junior.
But you know what?
They'll "win anyway."
This is the mantra of South Carolina baseball. It's taken on a new level and could be a battle cry for all of South Carolina sports. There are good things going on around all the Gamecock athletic programs. There's one team, though, that started it all.
Your back-to-back defending national champions.
So go ahead and throw some expectations out there. It's cool. No need to worry. This team will be able to do what most teams can't: Meet your expectations.
Aren't you glad baseball season is back?