Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
In their own ways, both the Gamecocks and the Wildcats shocked us in 2012 in baseball. Neither ended up with the national title when it was over
It was improbable when South Carolina won the College World Series in 2010 and seemed destined when they repeated in 2011. So it almost seemed to be expected when, against all odds, the Gamecocks made it back to Omaha that they would leave with the crown.
But then, something happened that hadn't happened in 22 postseason baseball games: South Carolina lost. Then, after the Gamecocks knocked out Arkansas in controversial fashion a couple of games later -- they lost again. And again, this time in a game that gave a team other than Ray Tanner's the championship for the first time since 2009.
Oddly enough, South Carolina might not even have been the favorite from the SEC East to make Omaha after its first two conference series. The Gamecocks started out the year 1-5 in SEC play. No, the front-runner was Kentucky, a team that climbed all the way to No. 2 in the Baseball America rankings before beginning an epic slide that deprived them of a national seed. But by the end of the year, it was South Carolina winning the SEC East and Kentucky that was disappointed.
The Wildcats' interesting season only got more intriguing from there, most notably in a 7-6 loss to Kent State in 21 innings. Kent State would eliminate Kentucky from the NCAA tournament the next time the two teams played.
Baseball is a game built on surprises, of course, and the 2012 college baseball season in the SEC ended up providing no shortage of surprises. It's also a cautionary tale for the SEC's football title run. It was just when South Carolina seemed on the verge of clinching its third national title in as many seasons that the whole thing fell apart. Streaks don't last forever, even if it's fun to watch them while they're underway.