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Gamecocks look to build on home NCAA win streak

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 29, 2014 at 5:28 pm •  Published: May 29, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook knows his team's 27-game NCAA tournament win streak at home comforts supporters and throws a big scare into postseason team headed to Carolina Stadium.

He also knows all those victories from the past won't mean much when the Gamecocks (42-16) open the Columbia Regional on Friday night against Campbell (40-19).

"We do play well at home," Holbrook said Thursday. "But as loud as our fans are, they can't be inside the white lines with us so our players have to perform."

Few teams have done that better in NCAA play than South Carolina the past decade or so. The Gamecocks have reached the College World Series six times the past 12 years, winning national titles in 2010 and 2011. They finished as Omaha runners-up twice more in that stretch.

At home, they've been unstoppable with a win streak that stretches back to 2002 and the second of three games with Miami in that year's super regional series. They closed defunct Sarge Frye Field with 11 straight NCAA home wins and have started their five-year-old ballpark with 16 consecutive tournament victories.

"It'd be pretty cool to mess that up," said a smiling Maryland coach John Szefc.

Maryland (36-21) of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Old Dominion (36-24) of Conference USA join the Camels of the Big South as regional teams hoping to put South Carolina's streak to rest. The problem, though, is none of those teams have played an NCAA tournament game since the Gamecocks' run of success began.

Maryland reached the NCAAs for the first time in 43 years, Campbell went 0-2 in 1990 in its only previous tournament appearance while Old Dominion last reached the NCAA tournament in 2000.

All of South Carolina's chasers are confident.

"I really think they're ready for the moment," Campbell coach Greg Goff said of his players.

Still, it's hard not to be awed by the 8,000-seat field and the trophy cases, murals and accolades throughout the facility.

"You see all the stuff, the glimmer and glitz which they've earned," says Maryland's Szefc, "it tends to creep into guys' heads."

Holbrook wants the past out of the Gamecocks minds.

South Carolina was ranked No. 1 early in the season until injuries limited regulars in second baseman Max Schrock and outfielders Connor Bright and Elliott Caldwell.

Schrock, who played just 31 games this year, is scheduled to play designated hitter this weekend because of continuing back issues, Holbrook said. Bright, who leads the club with a .331 average, was one of the team's hottest hitters but has dealt with elbow issues since April. He's played just three games and gotten only four at-bats since April 19.

Caldwell has not played since April 26th against Alabama because of back problems.

Holbrook says having some of those players in the lineup — most likely Schrock and Bright — would be a confidence booster to his players because of what they've meant to the team these past few seasons.

South Carolina junior catcher Grayson Greiner said the team has overcome injuries and issues to win 40 games for a 15th straight season and understand that reputation alone won't keep them going in NCAA play.

"This is a different postseason," he said. "This is not going to be a cakewalk by any means."

The Gamecocks are led by their pitching staff. Ace Jordan Montgomery is 4-0 with 0.59 ERA in his postseason career while Jack Wynkoop has allowed fewer than three runs a game in 86 1-3 innings.

Joel Seddon shuts things down in the bullpen with a Southeastern Conference leading 14 saves, seventh best in the country. The Gamecocks bullpen is 19-1 with a 1.53 ERA, a strong showing that will generally keep a team going in the NCAAs.

Holbrook is glad, though, he's got a large, loud stadium on his side when it comes to advancing.

"Hopefully, it will help us tomorrow," he said. "But we could have the awesomest atmosphere in college baseball history and if we don't play well, we're going to be in trouble. I think our players understand that."