The University of South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team won its second consecutive College World Series Tuesday night, defeating the University of Florida Gators in a two-game sweep of the best-of-three-game finals. Great pitching and sharp defense carried the team through its 10-0 run in the playoffs.
Gamecock pitcher Michael Roth won the clinching game with a strong performance over 7 2/3 innings. "We're not the most talented team, and we don't have the best players position-for-position," Roth said, "but we go out and stick together as a team. We battle. I can't describe it. We're a bunch of average Joes and love each other and come out and battle."
For a ready source of inspiration and good-luck charm all rolled up into one, the Gamecocks once again looked no further than 13-year-old Charlie Peters, who hails from Omaha, Neb., the annual host city for the College World Series (CWS).
Back in 2003 when Peters was only 5, he battled against a foe mightier than "Gators" or "Cavaliers." At an age when most kids are learning to tie their shoes, Peters battled Burkitt's lymphoma, a disease that produced a bowling ball-sized tumor in his stomach.
While lying in a hospital bed at Omaha Children's Hospital fighting the disease, the little boy received a visit from members of the South Carolina baseball team who were in town for the 2003 CWS. Upon his release from the hospital, Peters was invited by Gamecock coach Ray Tanner to serve as a one-game honorary batboy for the team, which the little boy quickly accepted. When he came to the ballpark he brought along a positive spirit and a poster he made for the dugout wall that read, "Never give up."
Peters kept battling the disease and eventually was cleared of the cancer. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks returned to the CWS the following year, and Peters sent them a good luck charm-a Beanie Baby he had in the hospital.
Fast forward to 2010: The Gamecocks once again found themselves in Omaha for the series, but they lost their first game in the double-elimination tournament. So Peters sent them another poster, reminding them of his victory over cancer and of the simple message from before: "Never give up." South Carolina went on to win the next six games and the 2010 championship.
This year, as the Gamecocks entered postseason play, Tanner made sure that Peters and his family received tickets for the games. Then the coach and his team went one step further by making Peters a batboy for the CWS. Not just an honorary batboy, mind you, but a real, working batboy this time.
And, as mentioned above, South Carolina went undefeated to win the championship, setting records for most NCAA tournament wins in a row (16) and most CWS victories in a row (11).
Baseball players are notoriously superstitious, so young Charlie Peters has earned his keep as a good-luck charm. But more than that, by "Never giving up" in his own battle, he serves as an inspiration to his favorite team and to people afflicted with cancer.
Congratulations to South Carolina for winning back-to-back national championships, and thank you Charlie Peters for giving us all an example of fortitude and courage in the face of trials.