Earlier this week, USC Executive Associate Athletics Director Charles Bloom said Beckham Field was built for the NCAA Tournament.
It's the first time Beckham Field will host a regional and the first time South Carolina will host a regional since 2002. It's a special milestone for head coach Beverly Smith and her team have relished since hearing their name called on the selection show.
"After coming back from Columbia (Missouri), it was a long week on the road," Smith said. To be here, our players are excited about being home. But for me, it's being in front of the fans and the familiarity of the field."
The Gamecocks were chosen as the No. 9 seed in this year's NCAA Softball Tournament just missing becoming one of the top eight national seeds. Despite missing that opportunity, Smith and the Gamecocks are happy with where they stand.
"I personally felt like we had to beat Florida to be a top eight so I think our seed is certainly fair," Smith said. "There was probably a part of me that was probably hoping maybe because you never know what the committee talks about, what they were emphasizing. But I felt like we needed a win over Florida to be a top eight. So, I did think our seed was fair."
South Carolina enters a regional where each team has more than 40 wins. On Friday, the Gamecocks will face UNC Greensboro. The Spartans (46-11) are the automatic qualifiers from the Southern Conference and their head coach, Janelle Breneman, is quite familiar with the South Carolina program.
"Janelle Breneman, the head coach there, was actually here at South Carolina with me for the first two years," Smith said. "So, I know they're a well-coached team and they're having a big year, but again, it's tournament time and you've got to be playing your best ball this time of year."
Joining the Gamecocks and the Spartans in the Columbia Regional are Liberty (47-12) and Hofstra (40-12). The Columbia Regional is the only regional where each team has won 40 or more games. However, with the regional filled with good teams, the pressure to protect their home field is something Carolina tries not to think about.
"We talk to our players all the time about eliminating distractions and really focusing on the things that are important for us," Smith said. "So, we'll continue to do that and make sure they're focused on the right things."
Regional play begins at Beckham Field with Liberty taking on Hofstra at 5 p.m. Friday. South Carolina and UNCG will play at 7:30 p.m.