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South Carolina baseball learns 2024 NCAA Tournament path, regional destination

South Carolina’s path to Omaha is now a little more clear.

The Gamecocks will be a 2-seed in the Raleigh (NC) Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament and face James Madison on Friday in its opener. Host school N.C. State faces Bryant on Friday.

Game times and TV channels weren’t immediately set, but all games will stream on ESPN+.

Not long after finishing the regular season on a six-game losing skid, getting swept by Georgia and Tennessee, South Carolina was able to find some momentum in last week’s SEC Tournament that it should be able to carry into the NCAAs.

The 10-seed heading into Hoover, the Gamecocks secured victories over Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky but lost twice to LSU, including an extra-innings defeat in the semifinals.

The Gamecocks will head into the NCAA Tournament with a 36-23 record as they look to do something that hasn’t been done since coach Mark Kingston’s first season in Columbia: win a regional without hosting.

Back in 2018, South Carolina upset regional host East Carolina and advanced to a super regional, where it fell to Arkansas.

That was just one of two times the Gamecocks have advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since Kingston took over. The other came last year, when the Gamecocks hosted and won a regional, but had to travel south and face a Florida team that went on to be the national runner-up.

Perhaps helping South Carolina’s case is that it has no doubt been tested. The Gamecocks have played the fifth-hardest schedule in the country.

South Carolina will surely need to correct its defense, which committed 12 errors in Hoover and loomed large in both games against LSU. But at least the Gamecocks have a healthy Cole Messina at their disposal. The junior catcher from Summerville was sensational last week, hitting four home runs and setting an SEC Tournament record with 16 RBIs.

Perhaps Messina will turn into the latest Gamecock hero en route to a trip to Omaha.

South Carolina, champions of college baseball in 2010 and 2011, is looking for its 12th appearance in the College World Series but its first since 2012 and first since then-head coach Ray Tanner transitioned to the Gamecocks’ athletic director.

Perhaps a pipe dream a week ago, South Carolina’s chances to still be playing baseball in two weeks looks much more realistic after what it did in Hoover.

“I can’t wait to watch our team go play in a regional, and hopefully a super regional, and hopefully Omaha after that,” Kingston said. “Obviously if anybody didn’t believe we were capable of that before this week, I think we passed the eye test. We’re one of the best teams in the country.”