Gamecocks dedicate CWS finals to fallen fan - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Gamecocks dedicate CWS finals to fallen fan

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Bayler Teal Bayler Teal

By Mandy Mitchell - bio | email

OMAHA, NE (WIS) - As the Gamecocks found the strength and the will to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners to extend their stay in the College World Series, one of their biggest little fans and a source of inspiration for the team passed away.

Seven-year-old Bayler Teal lost his battle with cancer just hours before the team beat the Sooners. The team pitched in to brighten the boy's last few weeks and in turn, he brightened theirs.

"It just hit me so hard," said Whit Merrifield on learning of Teal's death. "It was a night we should've been celebrating. I was taken aback by the whole situation. It's just awful."

Teal has been connected to the Gamecock baseball team for two years, just as he was newly-diagnosed with cancer.

The team adopted Bayler and his family, raising money for Christmas presents and visiting him in the hospital.

"Bayler's been a part of our program for a while now," said head coach Ray Tanner. "We had him over to our stadium and he threw out the first pitch in March. I hope he's somewhere smiling tonight that his team is still playing."

The players have dedicated the finals and etched "BT" on their hats to remember the brave little boy. Fans are also paying tribute their own way by calling the sport "Baylerball" instead of baseball.

"I feel for the Teal family so much," said Merrifield. "I just want them to know we are playing for him. We are thinking about him and praying for them."

Merrifield will be able to tell the Teal family himself Monday evening as they will be at the first game against the UCLA Bruins.

Several generous people donated money to help the family make the trip out to watch Bayler's favorite team try to win a national championship.

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