If you listen long enough and closely enough, you'll hear South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner speak about the 2011 team very similarly to the one that won a national title last summer.
The Gamecocks are 50-14 and headed back to the College World Series thanks to pitching, defense and timely hits. It's a heck of a formula for any level of baseball.
South Carolina has been able to duplicate it from one year to the next - something that's extremely difficult in college baseball, considering departures and additions.
Some of the names and faces changed, but the soul of the team did not alter from one year to the next. The roster was not littered with talent, but rather, players that collectively did enough to consistently win ballgames.
"We plugged guys in and they performed," Tanner said Sunday after USC knocked out Connecticut to advance to the program's 10th CWS and fifth since 2002. "I didn't think we were going to be awesome, but I thought we might win some close games. As you well know, we try to find a way to win.
"We can't just go out there and smack you around."
No, that didn't happen much. And especially in conference play, even though South Carolina managed a 22-8 SEC record that netted it a share of the regular-season title. The teams it shared the crown with, Florida and Vanderbilt, are also in Omaha, on the opposite side of the bracket.
South Carolina defeated both of those teams, Florida in Gainesville and Vandy in Columbia. Both series were decided on Sundays, and Tanner said the finale at UF might have been the season's turning point.
The Gamecocks started left-hander Bryan Harper, who eventually became a reliever. He wobbled, and then Colby Holmes came in and pitched three scoreless innings. John Taylor and Matt Price combined for three more scoreless, and USC scored the winning run in the eighth inning on a bases-loaded walk by Adrian Morales.
"I'm not sure we were the better team," Tanner said Sunday. "Still aren't."
Connecticut coach Jim Penders had a different take after his team lost to USC in two super regional games. He said it was the first opponent all year that he thought was better than the Huskies.
Asked what made the Gamecocks better in his mind, he began with Tanner.
"It starts with the guy at the top," Penders said. "I think he's a great motivator and gets the most out of his team."
That's been evident in this year more than most. Tanner has been tested this season by injuries and some inefficiency. Two of the three starting pitchers when the year began did not make it through April. Neither did center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., after the preseason All-American injured his wrist April 24. He's doubtful to play in Omaha, though he's trying feverishly to return.
Penders also said the national championship seems to have had a residual factor on this team, as many have noticed. This year's team expects to win, because it's won before.
"I think everybody on the field had a confidence and a swagger that was very noticeable," Penders said. "Top to bottom, they can all hurt you. It's a very good ballclub."
USC associate head coach Chad Holbrook will meet today with Tennessee officials about its head-coaching vacancy. Holbrook, completing his third season on the staff, has told friends he wants to stay in Columbia, but he needs an assurance of some kind from the administration that he will be Tanner's successor.
The administration, namely AD Eric Hyman, is not sure how to play that card, considering Tanner does not have a set timetable on retiring.
Holbrook could be offered up to $500,000 by UT, compared to his salary at USC of about $200,000. Holbrook also has a desire to be a head coach, and in the SEC or ACC. Cal State Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano, a former UT assistant, is also in the mix.