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Gamecocks Excited but Ready

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When he finally steps on the famous field at Rosenblatt Stadium, Adrian Morales plans to take a moment to soak in the atmosphere.

But just a moment.

"I'm going to smile and look around at all the fans," he said, "and then get the tunnel-vision on and go to work to bring the title back to South Carolina."

It's that blue-collar mentality that has carried the Gamecocks through a grueling season in the Southeastern Conference and five hard-fought games in the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoying the ride is important, but winning baseball games matters more.

"You can't get too caught up in the mix. It's still baseball," said Adam Matthews. "We'll be on the big stage but you've got to go out there and approach every game in the same way."

Playing for a program that competes with the expectation of reaching Omaha as well as playing in one of the toughest leagues in the country has prepared the Gamecocks for coping with the spotlight of the College World Series.

"I feel like pitching in the SEC, you've been battle tested all year as a pitcher, as a position player and as a coach," said Blake Cooper. "I knew when I came here that there was a great tradition and I knew the expectation for having good teams."

"This is why you come to USC," said Matthews. "To go to Omaha."

While the team expects to battle for a national championship, South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner also believes it's important for his players to have a memorable time.

"I want them to enjoy this experience. It's a wonderful opportunity for a student-athlete to reach the pinnacle of your sport whether it's a bowl game, a Final Four or the College World Series," said Tanner. "It doesn't get any better and I want them to cherish this opportunity."

Enjoying the experience doesn't mean the Gamecocks are just happy to be in Omaha. Tanner said staying loose is a key for success.

"Does that mean you're not going to be focused on trying to win baseball games? Absolutely not," he said. "But you're not going to play good baseball if you're tight and put too much pressure on yourself."


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