OMAHA, Neb. – Arizona came to the College World Series as one of the hottest teams in the nation and swept three straight games to reach the championship round.
Yet coach Andy Lopez and his players know few outside their fan base are paying much attention to them as the best-of-three series starts today.
That’s because South Carolina (49-18) has completed an improbable run to the finals, where it will try to become the first team in 40 years to win a third straight title.
“We’re just excited to be invited to the Ray Tanner Invitational,” Lopez said Saturday.
At that, Tanner, the Gamecocks’ 16th-year coach, playfully punched Lopez to open their pre-finals news conference.
“We’ve got a pretty good team,” Tanner said, “but we’re not the ’27 Yankees. We’ve had 28 one-run games. We know that every at-bat is crucial for us.
“We’ve got the chance to play in the finals a third time in a row. It’s hard to wrap your arms around that. You just have to have some good luck and fortune along the way, a couple clutch performances along the way.”
Sophomore right-hander Forrest Koumas (2-2) will start for South Carolina (49-18). Sophomore right-hander Konner Wade (10-3) will start for Arizona (46-17).
Koumas will face an Arizona team that is fourth in the nation in batting (.330) and sixth in scoring (7.4 runs per game).
“Most of the time I’ll get a guy or two that kind of gets to me and says I really want the ball,” Tanner said with a smile. “But since they’ve watched these guys hit, I’m not getting those guys.”
The last program to show as much dominance as the Gamecocks was USC, which won five straight championships from 1970-74.