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COLUMBIA – Entering the final month of the regular season, coach Mark Kingston and his South Carolina baseball team knew the margin for error to continue its SEC Tournament streak, as well as keep its aspirations of making the NCAA Tournament alive, was slim to none.
The Gamecocks (24-22, 10-14) had a sizable opportunity this past week in College Station to firmly insert their name into postseason discussions. They, however, lost a nine-run lead in Game 2 but won 9-4 on Sunday to avoid a sweep at No. 13 Texas A&M.
Most projections have USC missing the Field of 64 with eight games left in the regular season.
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With two SEC series remaining, at home against Kentucky this weekend and then at Florida, there is still ample opportunity for South Carolina to make its case.
Here’s how the Gamecocks can cement a NCAA Tournament at-large spot:
Make the SEC Tournament
As of now, USC isn’t locked into a spot in Hoover, which makes the six games with Kentucky and Florida even more important.
Two teams out of 14 don’t make the SEC tournament and, as it stands, the Gamecocks would be the No. 9 seed if the season ended today, thanks to tiebreakers they hold over Ole Miss and Alabama, who both have the same SEC record. Kentucky and Florida are both fighting for their SEC Tourney lives as well, so the urgency will be there for USC’s last two league series.
If history serves as a template, both Florida in 2019 and Alabama last season were previous SEC teams that made NCAA Regionals that had losing conference records but got in a couple of different ways – the Crimson Tide with two wins in Hoover and the Gators with a solid RPI (30).
Obviously, if South Carolina made the SEC Tournament, get hot and win it, all of this would be moot. But the Gamecocks' performance doesn’t suggest a deep run in the conference tournament, so how else could USC make it to Regionals?
Another way would be the team boosting its RPI over its final eight contests.
Kentucky (58) and Florida (12) both have higher RPI than South Carolina (67) currently. It would do the Gamecocks a lot of good if they could win those series.
USC also cannot afford to lose either of the remaining midweek games, at home against USC-Upstate and Charlotte, as both opponents have worse RPIs.
Cory Diaz covers the South Carolina Gamecocks for The Greenville News as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his work for all things Gamecocks on Twitter: @CoryDiaz_TGN. Got questions regarding South Carolina athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: South Carolina baseball: A look at NCAA Regionals, how USC gets in