After being eliminated from the SEC Tournament, South Carolina baseball is stuck waiting to see whether it will earn a top 16 seed to host an NCAA Tournament regional.
The No. 19 Gamecocks (39-18) once looked like a guaranteed host and likely a top-8 national seed, but they plummeted in the rankings after losing 11 of their last 15 games in the regular season. The team didn’t do much to help its standing in the SEC Tournament, earning a 9-0 win over Georgia before losing 10-3 to No. 3 LSU and getting upset 5-0 by unranked Texas A&M.
South Carolina last hosted a regional in 2021, but Old Dominion was the top seed and could not host due to a lack of proper facilities. The Gamecocks were eliminated in two games that year. They last earned hosting rights in 2016 and won the region that season, but they were eliminated in the Columbia Super Regional by Oklahoma State.
SEC TOURNAMENT:South Carolina baseball loses 5-0 to Texas A&M, eliminated from SEC Tournament
ALL-SEC TEAM:USA TODAY Network All-SEC baseball team is in. Here’s who made the cut
COLE MESSINA INJURY:South Carolina baseball catcher Cole Messina in concussion protocol after SEC Tournament game
Why Gamecocks will host
Coach Mark Kingston has repeatedly emphasized the importance of body of work, and South Carolina’s speaks for itself. The Gamecocks have won games against five of the top 10 teams in the country and are 20-15 against top 50 opponents. They also have a series win over No. 8 Clemson and a sweep of No. 2 Florida.
South Carolina ranks No. 5 in RPI with just one non-SEC team, Wake Forest, ahead of it and No. 3 in strength of schedule. While the team’s late-season slump doesn’t look good on paper, the Gamecocks are finally getting back several players who missed time due to injuries. Once a top 3 team in the country, their ceiling is too high to warrant anything less than a hosting slot.
Why Gamecocks won’t host
South Carolina crumbled during the most challenging part of its schedule. The Gamecocks dropped four consecutive SEC series to end the regular season, including a sweep by Kentucky and a 2-1 loss to unranked Auburn. The shutout by Texas A&M and the blowout by LSU in the conference tournament don’t build confidence in the team’s potential going forward.
The unfortunate reality for the Gamecocks is that the committee makes its decision at the end of May, so a top 5 ranking in early April doesn’t hold the same weight now. The injury issues also haven’t fully resolved: top pitchers Noah Hall and Will Sanders were both unavailable for the SEC Tournament and first-team All-SEC catcher Cole Messina is in concussion protocol after taking a foul tip to the face mask against LSU.
What the latest projections say
Before the loss to Texas A&M, South Carolina was projected right on the bubble of hosting as the No. 15 overall seed by D1Baseball and the No. 13 seed by Baseball America. D1Baseball places North Carolina, Grand Canyon and UNC Wilmington into the Columbia regional, while Baseball America projects the Gamecocks to host Duke, Oregon and Grand Canyon.
Tennessee’s loss to the Aggies in the first round of the tournament should help South Carolina’s case by eliminating the Vols from host consideration while elevating Texas A&M’s legitimacy as an opponent. The Gamecocks will also have an eye on the Big 12 tournament with Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia also in the host conversation.