COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina coach Ray Tanner has enjoyed the nearly eight months of parades, dinners and gatherings in honor of the Gamecocks' national championship.
Now, after South Carolina opened the year with a 12-5 over Santa Clara on Friday, he's ready for the celebrations to end and his players to focus on the season ahead.
"I enjoyed it, I really did," Tanner said of the festivities at a sold-out Carolina Stadium. "It was really special to see and then I'm standing over there thinking, 'I'm kind of glad I don't have to play.'"
The Gamecocks could've gotten caught up in the opening day hoopla. Instead, College World Series heroes Jackie Bradley Jr. and Michael Roth showed this group is ready to achieve, too.
Bradley had four hits, including a two-run homer, and Roth threw 5 2-3 innings to pick up the victory.
But not before South Carolina fans got a chance to revel in the program's first national title. They wore national championship hats and T-shirts. Fans stood three-deep snapping pictures of the CWS trophy within a permanent display case at the stadium's main entrance.
There was an Air Force flyover and the raising of the national title flag.
"It's like a dream come true. This will only get old if we do this again next year," said longtime Gamecocks fan Gordon Boyd of Columbia.
Last year's ace Blake Cooper was back to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, although he bounced it wide of his old battery mate Kyle Enders.
"We had a good time ragging him on that," Roth said.
Then it was gametime. Bradley, the College World Series most outstanding player, got things going with a single in the third that drove in Scott Wingo, the senior second baseman who scored the deciding run in a 2-1 victory over UCLA that wrapped up the national crown.
"That was kind of sweet," Wingo said.
Roth was on the mound as much for his even temperament as his skill. South Carolina fans won't forget his complete-game gem in a 5-1 win over rival Clemson last June at Rosenblatt Stadium. Tanner knew Roth was best equipped to set aside those cheers and pitch like Santa Clara meant every bit as much.
"It really was an honor to pitch today," Roth said. "It was a special day."
The Broncos, in town through Sunday, crept to 6-5 after rallying for three runs in the eighth. But the Gamecocks got home runs from Christian Walker and Wingo in their own six-run eighth that put the game out of reach.
Tanner, starting his 15th season as South Carolina's coach, was glad to see his players turn the page on last year.
"Obviously, we're not going to forget," said Wingo, the team captain. "We want to get back to Omaha. It's not just last year, we want to taste that again so we're going to battle everyday."