A special group returned to Columbia to be recognized this Saturday. The Gamecocks' 1977 baseball team was recognized on the field and received rings for their appearance in the CWS. The 1977 team went all the way to the national championship game at the College World Series under first-year head coach June Raines. After losing its first game in the postseason, the Gamecocks won four straight at Sarge Frye Field to win the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championship. The squad won three straight games in Omaha to advance to the finals of the CWS and finished with a 43-12-1 record.
The team gathered at Carolina Stadium early before the game with their families to take a tour of the state-of-the-art facility and catch up with each other. We talked with pitcher Randy Martz, who battled several inches of snow to make the long drive to Columbia from Illinois just outside of St. Louis, about what it meant to be back. Martz had a 14-0 record (best undefeated record in school history), was named National Player of the Year, unanimous first team All-America, won the Lefty Gomez Plate given to the top amateur baseball player in the country, and was a first round draft choice of the Chicago Cubs. He pitched four years in the major leagues. Martz shared that he has been back to Columbia for two alumni games, one at Sarge Frye and one at Carolina Stadium before it was totally completed, so this was his first time seeing the completed stadium (with added decor from two national championships.)
"I was pleased to be recognized," Martz said. "It's been a good situation for all the guys coming back and seeing each other. That's the biggest thing - getting to see all the players you haven't seen in a long time...To come down and see Carolina again, it's a good thing."
Martz said his favorite memory was beating Clemson in Clemson, 2-1, snapping a 26-game winning streak for the Tigers. After that win the Gamecocks compiled a 30-6 record the remainder of the season for a final mark of 43-12-1. The late season surge included two more wins over Clemson for a sweep of the season series.
In addition to Martz, the 1977 team had several other players go on to Major League Baseball. Mookie Wilson was second team All-America and played 1,403 major league games in 12 seasons with the Mets and Blue Jays. Ed Lynch played eight years with the Mets and Cubs and became general manager of the Cubs. Jim Lewis made it to the big leagues for brief stints with the Mariners, Yankees and Twins.
Today the landmark team gathered together to receive their rings and reflect back.
Raines and Hunton with Mookie Wilson (center)
Watch video of the pre-game recognition: