All good things must come to an end. Otherwise how would we know they were good?
For the South Carolina Gamecocks, the good times stopped at two. That was the number of the consecutive College World Series titles the school took into this year's finale. They had hoped to add a third, a streak that would have moved the program from merely great into the realm of dynasties such as Southern California, which won three consecutive national titles in the early 70s.
But it was not to be. The Gamecocks fell in two straight games to Arizona in the finals, closing out a run that will still rank among the best in college baseball history.
Sometimes it looked like this year's South Carolina team held it together with bailing wire and rally caps. Throughout the regular season, they weren't even the best team in the SEC East. That title went to Florida, which had the No. 1 team in the nation and the top seeding going into this year's CWS. But the Gators fell to Arizona and Kent State, while the Gamecocks lost once to Arkansas, but advanced through the losers' bracket to the finals.
"We battled as hard as we could, but they did a little bit better than we did," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said after the Monday night loss. "Though we're disappointed tonight, I'm not disappointed in my players. We battled awful hard. We made a run, got to the postseason and got back out here. We got in the losers' bracket and got back to the finals."
The run had historic as well as dynastic implications. With six consecutive national football champions, the SEC hoped to add a fourth consecutive CWS title (LSU won in 2009) to go with their reigning college basketball championship (Kentucky) and women's golf, softball and gymnastics titles (Alabama).
"Obviously, that's the goal of every college baseball team," said Gamecocks right fielder Adam Matthews after the loss. "When you're recruited to a big program like the University of South Carolina, it's an honor. And you get there and your goal is to get to Omaha, and, further, to win the national championship. To do that twice and be in a position this year to do it again, it's been unbelievable. It's been a lot of fun. We had a great run."
The run looked like it might continue, at least for one more game, as the Gamecocks loaded the bases in the ninth inning. But with two outs, freshman catcher Grayson Greiner, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, flied out to give Arizona the victory.
Still, the Gamecocks proved themselves to be a baseball force, and the SEC -- known throughout the country as the leading college football conference - continued to expand its athletic reach. Three teams from the conference made it to Omaha, and six have made it to the finals in the last five years (South Carolina beat Florida last year, and Georgia lost to Fresno State in 2008).
Of course they don't build trophy cases and erect statues for second place. But with the record he is compiling in a conference that seems poised to dominate the college baseball diamond for years to come, Ray Tanner might actually surpass Steve Spurrier as the most popular coach in Columbia.
Championships have that effect.