A Look Back on the YardCocks Magical Season... and ONE LAST THANK YOU!
I remember sitting in Halls Chophouse in late January speaking to someone close to the team and hearing his excitement as he glowed about the players on this YardCocks team. As we chatted into the night, it was clear that this team could have a special season. The arm talent was there, but could the bats come alive…
OPENING DAY came and saw that YardCocks put up 20 runs on a Friday afternoon in late February against UMass Lowell and it was the start of a MAGICAL RUN which would lead to NINE STRAIGHT VICTORIES to start the season! A STAR WAS BORN in a little-known Freshman named ETHAN PETRY who began an absolute tear in non-conference play. We also saw COCKBOMB CASAS come alive as he absolutely punished balls over the right field fence game after game to become the NCAA leader in home runs early on in the season. The YardCocks were putting everyone on notice, that this team was capable of being a CONTENDER…
One of my favorite weekends of the Spring then came as the YardCocks began their series with the cLempsun Taters. While the winning streak was snapped that Friday night to open the series, we saw an early glimpse of what truly made this team special in Greenville. The HEART and PASSION of this team was contagious… Down 4 runs in the 7th , the YardCocks battled back to take a 8-7 lead behind a Magical 3 run blast from Hornung… Messina would later put the icing on the cake and belted an absolute bomb over the left field fence in the 8th that put the game out of reach… The YardCocks came back to Founders Park with the series tied 1-1 heading into the Sunday rubber match!
As Sunday Came, I partnered with Gamecock Bourbon Society to throw a Tailgate prior to the game. Surrounded by friends new and old, there was absolutely no better way to head into a rubber match than getting to spend a Sunday afternoon with fellow Gamecocks before what would be a series clinching WIN! Those tailgates are what makes being a Gamecock SO SPECIAL. Regardless of the sport, having the opportunity to spend time with Gamecocks fans talking ball and sharing stories is some of the best days of the year!
As conference play approached the YardCocks ascended in the rankings pushing their status as Top 10 team in the country… Just as they did in Non-Conference play, they started out SCORCHING HOT against SEC play going 8-1 and cementing Top 10 status AND AN OMAHA CONTENDER! As Masters Thursday approached, so did a showdown with the #1 LSU Tigers. In what would go down as one of the best YardCocks big game performances of all time, Ethan Petry mashed two homers and drove in 8 RBI’s to lead the Opening game dominating win. The series would end at a 1-1 split after the 3rd game got rained out and LSU came back from down big in Game 2 to win. Regardless of that one game’s outcome, it was proven that when healthy, the YardCocks could compete with ANYONE.
As the LSU series concluded that YardCocks were heading into the meat of their schedule in what would be three straight series against Top 5 teams. After going 1-2 in Nashville, the YardCocks came back home and SWEPT the Gators to conclude the three series stretch at 5-3 and leading the SEC East… In what would be a series of unfortunate events the YardCocks hit the injury bug in the infield losing a myriad of players over the course of the next (4) SEC Series… The dreams of hosting a Super Regional were all but dashed and the idea of hosting a Regional was becoming into question. I remember as a fan during this time it was so hard to watch, a team that had so much momentum in the 1st half of the season had lost their MOJO and also some of their leaders due to injury…
The SEC Tournament brought back a familiar lineup and the Opening game DOMINATION against the Dawgs brought some flashbacks of the YardCocks of early season. While the next two games didn’t turn out like we wanted the confidence was growing, knowing that if this lineup got healthy in time for the Regional, it could be DANGEROUS! Speaking of Regional, the question on IF THE GAMECOCKS WOULD HOST was a hotly debated topic as the regular season came to a close. The RPI and SOS numbers could compete with anyone, but the poor finish definitely left those making the decision on whether or not the Gamecocks were “worthy” of a Top 16 seed and hosting a regional. On Sunday as the regular season tournaments completed, we were left with a Sunday night announcement regarding the host sites. We didn’t have to wait long as COLUMBIA, SC was announced as a Regional Host and it assured the YardCocks were going to get at least one more weekend at HOME.
It was only (7) days ago but at this exact time last weekend, the YardCocks were capping off a DOMINATING REGIONAL PERFORMANCE that saw them get Will McGillis back at the top of the lineup and he showed what the YardCocks had been missing for the last two months. Casas returned to old form by winning Regional MVP honors and smacking the ball all over the field along with leading the team in RBI’S for the weekend. Founders was PACKED and it felt great to be HOME playing in big POST SEASON GAMES AGAIN! The YARDCOCKS proved that they were going to be a TOUGH OUT as they headed to Gainesville to take on the RED HOT Gators and the #2 OVERALL SEED.
The Gators had this REMATCH CIRCLED. After getting SWEPT in the regular season, you knew they didn’t want that same fate to happen again. I met up with Evan from “Tito’s and Chicken” at the Roost in Charleston, SC to watch the opening game Friday night and it was PACKED with Gamecocks fans. You know you’re in the South when the NBA Finals was subjected to a small corner TV and the Gamecocks were dominating the other 90% of the TV’s with the commentary on the loud speakers. In just a few short seconds after the game started, the YardCocks took the lead on a Will McGillis blast that sent the bar into a FRENZY! It was a moment I’ll never forget, after the 2.5 hour rain delay, we had SUPER REGIONAL BASEBALL in full force… While the next 17 innings led to an earlier than desired post season exit, that feeling of being back in a Super Regional, had every Gamecocks fan and myself itching for more!
Looking back on this season, it truly was SPECIAL. A team that very little were giving a chance at winning in post season play, let alone making it to a Super Regional, captivated Gamecocks fans for over (4) months. Watching Petry, Casas, Messina, McGillis, Veach, Mahoney and others pour their heart out on the field for us fans was a spectacle to see every night, and one that I WILL DEARLY MISS! As with every end to a season, we’ll lose our Seniors and others to the draft and transfer portal and it’s always tough to say Goodbye. Those Seniors who wore the Garnet and Black become a part of our everyday family for (4) years and it’s always hard to see them go. I’m thankful for each one of them that chose the University of South Carolina to call home and look forward to seeing them return in the future to help continuing to build on the history and culture of Gamecocks Baseball. As we turn our eyes to Football season, I just want to give ONE LAST THANK YOU to this YardCocks team and especially our SENIORS. Just know, you’ll always have a place in Columbia to call HOME!
THANK YOU YARDCOCKS!