It has been almost a year since South Carolina lost a game in the NCAA tournament, so it didn't necessarily feel like things were lost when they went down 4-0 in the first inning against Texas A&M in the Gamecocks' first game of the College World Series. And that was even before things got really odd.
After all, the Aggies' four runs were all unearned. And so were two of the runs that South Carolina plated in the Gamecocks' four-run first inning -- a frame that included a balked-in run and an errant throw from second base to first that almost could have made the upper deck at Generic Corporately Named CWS Stadium.
And just like that, the scoring stopped. For the next seven-and-a-half innings, the pitchers for both teams flustered, confused and set down most of the batters that went to the plate. South Carolina's Michael Roth pitched a mind-boggling 122 pitches in 7.1 beautiful innings of work. Because all the runs in the first inning were unearned, his ERA almost disappeared, dropping to 0.97. Ross Stripling for Texas A&M countered with his own great performance once the rocky first inning was over.
Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Robert Beary doubled and nearly made the fatal decision to try to turn it into a triple. Luckily for South Carolina and its fans' coronaries, he stopped awkwardly, then advanced to third on a hit by Jackie Bradley Jr. (After the reigning Most Outstanding Player had been asked to bunt until he had two strikes, which is a story for another day.) Evan Marzilli walked before Scott Wingo -- the closest thing South Carolina and perhaps college baseball has to a last-decade David Ortiz -- rocketed a ball to right field for his latest walk-off hit.
So far, the SEC is 3-0 in Omaha -- or, as Alligator Army correctly pointed out on Twitter Sunday night, the SEC East is 3-0 in Omaha. That will end Monday night, when Florida and Vanderbilt square off in the winners' bracket. But even then, it's one last sign of how far ahead of the SEC West the East was this year. The reigning national champions still haven't lost a game this year in the tournament; neither has Vanderbilt. Oh, and SEC tournament champion Florida is also just four wins away from its first national title in baseball.
All in all, not a bad showing by the conference in the opening round.
Even if it did take a little bit of luck to get there.