Teams of ’10: Several programs made statements

It was a year that was and wasn’t for many teams.

South Carolina was on the winning side of the ledger. The Gamecocks will never forget 2010. They entered the year with high expectations, but winning the national title was an unexpected outcome.

UCLA, the Gamecocks’ opponent in the title series, took a huge step forward this year.

The Bruins entered the year unranked, but were confident they could surprise observers. They accomplished that goal by finishing near the top of the Pac-10 and defeating Cal State Fullerton on the way to the College World Series.

Cody Regis and UCLA took a step forward this year by finally getting back to the College World Series.
(Getty Images)

TCU, Oklahoma and Arizona State also had memorable years, while Oregon, Connecticut, Auburn and Virginia Tech had memorable campaigns in different fashion.

The Ducks put together a miraculous turnaround this year that ended with a postseason appearance, the Huskies unexpectedly finished the year hosting a postseason regional, Auburn finally got back to the SEC tournament and hosted a regional and Virginia Tech surprised by finally taking a step forward in the ACC and reaching the postseason.

The year 2010 was filled with plenty of great storylines involving many great teams.

We only can hope 2011 meets expectations.

South Carolina: Why the Gamecocks are on this list requires no thought. The Gamecocks entered their ’10 campaign ranked No. 13, but stormed through SEC play and the NCAA postseason to capture the program’s first national title, and only the institution’s second national title. The Gamecocks had a year that was filled with exciting moments and clutch play. They hope that trend continues as a new year begins.

UCLA: Gone is the mantra that the Bruins can’t win the big game. The Bruins weren’t ranked to enter the year, but finished near the top of the Pac-10 and prevailed through murderer’s row in the postseason. Their postseason run, which ended with a national title series loss to South Carolina, included a super regional series win over arch nemesis Cal State Fullerton. It was a fruitful year for the Bruins.

Connecticut: Ohio State began the season as the northern darling, but handed the baton over to the Huskies after not exactly shocking the world. The Huskies were more than happy to carry the torch for the northern half of the country. They finished near the top of the Big East and hosted an NCAA Regional before bowing out of the postseason. In ’10, the Huskies set the stage for what could be a very fruitful ’11 campaign.

Oregon: You had to love the Ducks this year if you’re a big fan of fantastic turnaround stories. The Ducks had a dismal first season back on the diamond two years ago, finishing at the bottom of the Pac-10 and with only 14 overall wins. Last season, though, the Ducks won 40-plus games and reached an NCAA Regional title game. There’s no question at this point the future is bright with coach George Horton leading the way.

Auburn: What happened this year may only be a precursor for even better things to come in the future for the Tigers. AU almost reached an NCAA Regional two seasons ago with coach John Pawlowski leading the way. In ’10, though, the Tigers finally got over the hump by reaching the SEC tournament for the first time since ’03 and reaching an NCAA Regional. Pawlowski has figured out AU shouldn’t be a tough place to win. It’ll be exciting to watch his tenure play out.

Oklahoma: It wasn’t long ago there were some that thought it would be a good idea for the Sooners to part ways with coach Sunny Golloway. That obviously wouldn’t have been a good decision looking back. The Sooners took their biggest step forward under the tutelage of Golloway last season with a magical postseason run that ended at the College World Series. OU is expected to compete for the national title again in ’11.

TCU: The Horned Frogs have been a postseason mainstay for several years with coach Jim Schlossnagle leading the charge. However, they hadn’t gotten over the biggest hump and reached the College World Series until this year. The Frogs won the Fort Worth Regional before beating heated rival Texas in the Austin Super Regional. With most of their club returning in the spring, the Frogs could have an even more prosperous ’11.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils have made the third-most CWS appearances, but their trip to Omaha in ’10 was extra special for a good reason. The Devils went through a tumultuous time to end ’09 when long-time coach Pat Murphy was removed from the program. Tim Esmay took over as interim coach and earned the full-time tag after guiding the program to another Pac-10 title and trip to Omaha. ASU showed this year it could overcome adversity.

Virginia Tech: After transforming the attitude and culture at Boston College, coach Pete Hughes hoped to accomplish the same goal with the Hokies. Well, it finally happened this year with a fantastic campaign. The Hokies won 40 games and reached the Columbia, S.C., Regional title game against South Carolina. VT certainly has some tough holes to fill in ’11, but the program took a giant step forward in ’10.

Clemson: The Tigers had another year to remember under the direction of coach Jack Leggett. They won the Auburn Regional and Clemson Super Regional – both over SEC teams – before falling just short of the national title series with a tough semifinal loss to rival South Carolina. Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Tigers set the tone for what should be a successful ’11.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Dec 31, 2010