FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — For a moment halfway through season, it looked like South Carolina’s senior class would end their careers missing back-to-back postseasons.
What happened over the last five weeks of the regular season was a turnaround that saw all five able to play in a super regional and, in doing so, take a step forward in getting the program back to where it needed to be.
“The season we had has been a huge turning point for the program,” Hunter Taylor said. “I think it’s a good step in the right direction.”
The five seniors — Taylor, Justin Row, Jonah Bride, Matt Williams and Madison Stokes — were the backbone of the Gamecocks’ late-season resurgence as they powered the offense to 17 wins over the last 26 games, including four in the postseason.
They helped lay the foundation and develop a personality of a team that didn’t back down, sparking countless comebacks over the last month-and-a-half of the season.
So despite not getting to Omaha over the course of their careers, the seniors feel good about where the program is moving forward.
“It really hurts to come up short,” Bride said. “But I know the guys that are coming back are going to continue to build on what we did this year.”
Right now, the Gamecocks have 22 players guaranteed to come back with seven draftees deciding if they’ll go pro or come back to school.
A handful of players who are guaranteed to come back played pivotal roles in this year’s postseason run, including freshmen Carmen Mlodzinski, Logan Chapman and John Gilreath pitching pivotal innings, and sophomore Sawyer Bridges picking up two saves in six games.
Row thinks the added experience for those kinds of young players will only benefit them moving forward and shows them what it’ll take to get over the super regional hump.
“Our goal was to get to Omaha. We fell a little bit short,” Row said. “I think we paved a good way for these guys coming in and what the program expects and what they’re going to do for this program to stay successful.”
The Gamecocks (37-26) now will split up, with players either moving on to professional baseball or shipping off to a summer ball team before returning to school.
So when does preparations for next season start?
"As soon as we get off the plane,” Jacob Olson said of the return to Columbia.