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They meet again.
|BA - CWS
|ERA - CWS
Doesn't it almost seem like this was supposed to be the endgame between Florida and South Carolina? One arguably won the regular-season SEC championship -- if you count tiebreakers -- while the other was one of the teams in the mix for the championship and won the conference tournament.
After all, the trips through the College World Series sometimes matched the season itself. There was Florida, ranked No. 1 coming into the season by Baseball America. And there was South Carolina, whose lofty No. 7 ranking nonetheless pegged them as no better than the third team in the stacked SEC East.
Florida came to Omaha as a favorite, if not the favorite, to emerge from its side of the bracket. And South Carolina emerged as a likely runner-up to Virginia, the No 1 national seed and the No. 1 team in the nation -- and swept through its half of the College World Series field as easily as it seemed to slice through the regular season. There were some notably difficult moments, such as the rough start to the Texas A&M game and the harrowing, 13-inning epic against Virginia to clinch the ticket to the finals. But in the end, South Carolina did what it has done ever since dropping its first game in Omaha last year: Win postseason baseball games.
Not that the postseason winning streak was supposed to get this far. Teams don't climb out of the losers' bracket to win the whole thing -- but the Gamecocks did in 2010. And UCLA was supposed to easily blow by the Gamecocks and claim the 2010 crown -- but South Carolina was the team hoisting the trophy when the College World Series was over. Once again, South Carolina is being counted out by many of the experts. You'll excuse fans if they don't take those predictions too seriously.
Florida, on the other hand, is looking for the last leg of a powerful trifecta -- becoming one of an elite few schools to claim a national championship in football, basketball and baseball. (Some quick Internet research turns up Cal, Michigan and Ohio State as the others.) National championships are not a right, but they are likely beginning to feel like it at Florida -- and rightly so.
Whatever happens, the numbers say it will be a low-scoring series. If you go by the numbers -- and what else can you go by? -- South Carolina has the edge on pitching. That will cause some dispute among the experts, but I'll take numbers over experts any day. By the same token, you have to give the offensive advantage to Florida, especially with the questions around Christian Walker, easily the Gamecocks' best hitter. That will cause almost no dispute, even among most of the South Carolina fans.
One way or another, though, we will have a definitive SEC champion by the time the curtain goes down in Omaha. That team will also be the national champion. And it seems like we've been headed that way all along.