South Carolina played its second big home game of the season on Friday night against Arkansas.
The Gamecocks’ previous home game with any significant buzz, aside from the usual anticipation of Opening Day, was March 3 against Clemson. USC gave its fans what they wanted that Sunday afternoon, with an 8-0 win to claim the rivalry series.
The fans who bothered to stick around for the end of USC’s 15-3 loss Friday to Arkansas witnessed the Gamecocks’ worst defeat since 2010, and their worst to a Southeastern Conference opponent since 2008.
But if you think first-year coach Chad Holbrook’s predecessor, Ray Tanner, never suffered a big blowout loss, you’re nuts. Games like this happen. They get away from you.
In his final 10 seasons at USC (2003-12), Tanner lost nine times by 10-plus runs, including three times to Clemson. Consider that in the 2002 College World Series opener – the Gamecocks’ first trip to Omaha since 1985 and a huge moment for the program – they lost 11-0 to Georgia Tech.
Tanner arrived at USC in 1997. The Gamecocks advanced to their first Super Regional under him in 2000, when they fell to Louisiana-Lafayette in an absolute stunner. USC had gone 56-8 before dropping its final two games of that Super Regional in Columbia.
The next year, the Gamecocks again knocked on Omaha’s door, only to fall at Stanford in the best-of-three Super Regional. In USC’s first game of that Super Regional, it lost 11-1.
So after back-to-back disappointing postseason performances – including a double-digit run loss in 2001 – Tanner was finally in Omaha with USC in 2002 … and the Gamecocks laid an egg in their first game.
But if you know even a little bit about USC baseball history, you know what happened next. USC won four straight games in that 2002 World Series, before falling to Texas in the championship game, back when it was just one game.
Tanner brought USC back to Omaha in 2003 and 2004, and finally broke through with national titles in 2010 and 2011, then had another runner-up finish in 2012. Not a bad recovery from getting knocked 11-0 in your first College World Series game with a program.
So is it really a huge deal that Holbrook lost 15-3 in his first SEC home game (and his first big SEC game, for that matter)? Not really.
The points being: You can’t put too much stock in one blowout loss, and even the best of baseball coaches have suffered their fair share of them over the years.
Here now, to provide further context, the list of USC’s losses by 10-plus runs in Ray Tanner’s final 10 years …
Clemson, 2010, 19-6 in Columbia
Clemson, 2009, 12-2 in Columbia
Tennessee, 2008, 13-2 in Columbia
Kentucky, 2008, 15-3 in Columbia
Auburn, 2007, 16-1 in Columbia
Vanderbilt, 2007, 12-1 in Columbia
Evansville, 2006, 15-5 in Charlottesville, Va. (NCAA tournament)
Vanderbilt, 2006, 11-1 in Hoover, Ala. (SEC tournament)
Clemson, 2005, 12-2 in Clemson