SEC Baseball 2011 Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

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RECORD LAST YEAR: 54-16
South Carolina's baseball team had what is likely the greatest season of any sport at the school, claiming the Gamecocks' first-ever major-sport national championship with a run through the College World Series and a sweep of the heavily-favored UCLA Bruins in the best-of-three final.
KEY LOSS: Whit Merrifield
It's a close call between him and pitcher Blake Cooper, but Merrifield tied for the team lead in home runs with 13 and batted .321/.393/.500. He was also the only player to start each of South Carolina's 70 games
KEY RETURN: Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley Jr. was the best player on the reigning national champions, which is a pretty good distinction to hold. He hit .368/.473/.587, was charged with just one error despite playing in 67 games and shared the team lead in home runs with Merrifield.
TOUGHEST NON-CONFERENCE SERIES: CLEMSON (3/4-3/6)
This weekend's series matches two highly-ranked teams in what has become one of the better interconference rivalries in college baseball. There's a reason two of the games are begin televised in the state.
TOUGHEST SEC SERIES: at FLORIDA (3/25-3/27)
The month that begins with their big non-conference tilt ends with what could be the most significant series in the SEC East this year: The showdown between last year's top two contenders for the division title in Gainesville.
GOING TO HOOVER? Yes
South Carolina has lost some pitching depth this year, but it's almost impossible to see them falling completely out of the SEC tournament.
NCAAs? Most likely
Again, unless the bottom unforeseeably drops out of the program, the question will be whether South Carolina can make another run to Omaha.

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