Sea of Garnet and Black welcomes home national champs

Crowd packs into Colonial Life Arena / Emily Pace

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- After Tuesday night's historic win in Omaha at the Men's Baseball College World Series, the Gamecocks arrived home with the national title.

South Carolina fans carried on the celebration of the back-to-back national championship wins. Thousands packed the Colonial Life Arena wearing garnet and black Wednesday evening to welcome back Coach Ray Tanner and the team.

A replay of Tuesday night's 5-2 victory over the Florida Gators in Game 2 of the College World Series Finals was shown on the big screen before the team arrived shortly after 5 p.m.

Tanner and members of his team spoke one-by-one on stage thanking fans for their support. Notable local and state officials, including Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, USC Athletic Director Eric Hyman, USC President Harris Pastides and Sen. John Courson (R-Richland), warmed up the stage and welcomed the team home.

Sen. Courson joked the team will now be known as the cardiac kids and Pastides said magic must have been involved in the College World Series win that made USC stronger and better.

This year, around 12,000 fans showed up to the celebration.

"No other team has accomplished what we have accomplished, and it is just so much fun to watch these guys," says Gamecock fan Richard Bates.

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But the celebration doesn't stop at the welcome home ceremony. If you looked up at the State House dome while in downtown Columbia you probably noticed the Gamecocks flag flying high over the city.

Gov. Nikki Haley ordered it be flown Wednesday to honor the team's victory.

"Michael and I join thousands of people across our state " and across the country " in congratulating the Gamecocks baseball team on back-to-back College World Series national championships. During a record-setting postseason run, the Gamecocks gave every South Carolinian something to celebrate. We TMre incredibly proud of the team TMs success on and off the baseball field," Haley said in a release Wednesday.

The fountain in Five Points has also been dyed garnet as part of the celebration. In addition, city officials announced a special parade will be held to honor the Gamecocks Friday. The route will be the same as last year's event, down Main Street from Laurel Street to Gervais Street, and will take place at noon. Mayor Benjamin encourages fans to wear their team's colors to show support.

"Coach Ray Tanner and his team continue to prove that if you work hard, believe in yourself and aim for the stars you can do the impossible," Benjamin said. "We TMre honoring them because they are more than simply an outstanding team. They are simply outstanding."

Meanwhile, local businesses are cashing in on the Gamecock's big win. Eat More Tees is printing championship t-shirts non-stop.

Store owners say they received some orders on Sunday in anticipation of the victory.

The store will have over 11,000 shirts by 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

"It's been chaos. We've been printing since midnight," Kevin Schumacher of Eat More Tees says. "About 7:30 this morning when I got here, the phones started ringing and ringing, so I'm guessing they've been ringing since six."

One diehard fan showed up at 1 a.m. to get her hands on the new back-to-back tees.

The Gamecocks' streaks of 16 NCAA tournament wins and 11 straight in the CWS are both the longest all-time. South Carolina has the distinction of winning the last CWS played at Rosenblatt Stadium and the first at TD Ameritrade Park.

What is the most memorable moment from the Gamecock's baseball season this year? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and join the discussion.

Scott Wingo, Gamecock 2nd Baseman

Gamecock Head Coach Ray Tanner