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June 24, 2004

Omaha, Neb. – The old saying that all good things must come to an end could describe the manner in which South Carolina’s baseball team exited from the 2004 NCAA College World Series. The Gamecocks, who dropped their first game last Saturday against Cal-State Fullerton, had run off three straight wins – against LSU, Miami and Cal-State Fullerton – before the Titans prevailed 4-0 in a do or die game Thursday evening at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium.

The Gamecocks finished the year with a 53-17 record. That makes them the nation’s winningest program since 2000. Three straight trips to the College World Series is quite a feat for the Carolina program and is something to be proud of and something to build upon.

Landon Powell spent a few minutes with the ESPN TV crew Thursday morning. They talked with USC’s catcher about playing in the elimination game vs. Cal-State Fullerton and also asked him about the Titans’ standout catcher Kurt Suzuki, who like Powell, was drafted by the Oakland As. “I’ve enjoyed meeting Kurt out here,” said the Gamecock senior. “It’s kind of cool knowing that we will be playing together before too long. He’s a great player and I look forward to being his teammate.”

Thursday started off rainy and unseasonably cool in Omaha. A light rain fell over the city during the morning hours, with the temperatures hovering in the 50s. By game time, the rain had dissipated and skies had cleared. Game time temperature was around 60 degrees.

Thursday’s game marked the final hurrah for players like Powell, second baseman Kevin Melillo and pitcher Matt Campbell. Their families gathered in the lobby of the Omaha Hilton after the game and bid their farewells to other members of the Gamecock team and support staff. “It’s been a great ride,” said Ron Powell, Landon’s father. “We’ve enjoyed every minute of it. We’ll always be Gamecocks.”

Several of the players will be heading to play summer ball later next week. Outfielder Mark Stanley says he is going to Ohio to play in a wooden bat league. “I’ll take a couple of days off and then my father and I will drive up to Ohio,” said Stanley. “There are a lot of things I need to improve upon this summer. Now’s the time you become a better ball player.”

The staff at the Hilton Omaha treated the team royally. Each day before the team left, the entire staff would form a tunnel from the lobby to the bus and chant Gamecock cheers. Having the team spend more than a week at their property is obviously a financial boon to the hotel. But, it was evident that it was more than just that. The folks at the Hilton took a genuine interest in the team and it showed in the type of service they provided. Thanks to the Hilton Omaha for a job well done.

Three straight trips to Omaha is an incredible feat. While it’s a disappointment that the Gamecocks weren’t able to advance to the championship series on Thursday, one thing is certain. They took the Gamecock fans on one terrific ride during the 2004 baseball season. Congratulations to Coach Ray Tanner, his staff and the entire Gamecock squad. You made Gamecock fans proud. We look forward to a return trip to Omaha. It’s by far one of the premier sporting events in all of college athletics.