It's hard enough for any one team to fight through a bracket of 64 teams to win a national championship one year. Especially in baseball. Sure, every year someone has to win, but so many different guys have to pitch well in order for a team to last through the College World Series and come out victorious. South Carolina's achievement solidifies this teams' place in not just college baseball history, or even baseball history, but in championship history.
These players and coaches join the likes of Stanford ('87-'88), LSU ('96,'97) and Oregon State ('06-'07) as the only teams in the last 25 years that have repeated as CWS champions in back-to-back years. This team had a bulls-eye on its back for the entire 2011 season and wore it like a shield only to defend its rightfulness as the best team in college baseball. If there was ever any doubt, it is over now.
Head Coach Ray Tanner will be the first person to give the credit to everyone else in the program from his assistant coaches to his training staff. But he deserves loads of credit for keeping these players tuned in to their goals for the 2011 season after winning it all in 2010. It would have been very easy for this team to come out and be complacent this season and think that it would just come easy the second time around. By no means was this an easy road for South Carolina.
It took a walk-off hit from tournament MVP Scott Wingo to defeat Texas A&M early in the CWS. It took a 13-inning slugfest against Virginia in which they showed the poise that a champion must possess. A constant back and forth in trading blows in the extra inning game that had each teams' closer throw 95+ pitches. They showed that same poise in the game one victory against Florida. When the pressure rose for this championship team, they rose with it. There was never a situation that was too big or a circumstance too difficult they could not overcome.
You can't win a championship without having everyone on the team help in the process. They found enough guys that made big plays at the right times that led them to this title. As Michael Roth said, who was the starting pitcher in last years deciding game against UCLA and started in the deciding game two against Florida on Tuesday night. via ESPN.com
"We're not the most talented team, and we don't have the best players position for position," Roth said, "but we go out and stick together as a team. We battle. I can't describe it. We're a bunch of average Joes and love each other and come out and battle."
It seems as if we're always hearing this from teams right after they win a championship. Finding the right formula of players and coaches and getting those coaches to get the most out of their players is the constant battle for coaches at any level. The South Carolina Gamecocks have figured out that formula. And now because of it, they will be remembered forever for what millions witnessed Tuesday night.