USC Beaufort

USCB's solid start has raised expectations for future teams

To properly understand just how far USC Beaufort's young athletics program has come in its four-year history, consider this: When reflecting on the Sand Sharks' past year, it's hard not to be a least a little bit disappointed.

That's a fairly phenomenal fact considering all that went right for USCB this year.

The baseball team won its 100th game (in just three seasons), earned its first two wins in the Sun Conference Tournament and came within one game of a repeat trip to the NAIA World Series Opening Round. Another milestone could be around the corner this week, when junior pitcher Dexter Price is likely to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft.

The men's golf team finished third at the NAIA National Championship -- its third consecutive year finishing in the top seven -- won the school's first Sun Conference title in any sport and boasted two first-team NAIA All-Americans in Jon Pannone and George Thacker.

The women's golf team earned its second consecutive trip to nationals and had its first honorable mention NAIA All-American in Kelli Nakano, who also became the first USCB athlete to win an individual Sun Conference title.

The track and cross country teams both sent men and women to nationals, and Shannon Anderson gave the men's track team its first conference champion by winning the triple jump.

Yet for as impressive as all those accomplishments are for a fledgling program that continues to operate out of a trailer tucked in a quiet corner of campus, there's plenty of reason to wonder about what might have been.

What might have been if the baseball team hadn't lost three key pitchers and a slugging first baseman for one reason or another during the offseason? Maybe the Sand Sharks would have lived up to their lofty preseason rankings, which put them in the national top 25 and picked them second in the conference, rather than needing a flurry of wins at the end of the regular season just to get into the conference tournament.

What might have been if a few more putts had dropped for the men's golf team last week at TPC at Deere Run? Perhaps the Sand Sharks could have put a bit more pressure on eventual champion Oklahoma Christian and challenged for a national title.

What might have been had an all-conference player not been left out of the women's golf team's lineup for nationals? USCB might have been able to come closer to matching last year's seventh-place finish.

That the young program has developed such high expectations so quickly is a testament to the job former athletics director Kim Abbott did in building the program, the job Ty Rietkovich has done since replacing Abbott last year, and the commitment the administration has made to athletics, even in difficult economic times.

Two more programs will launch next school year -- women's soccer in the fall and softball in the spring -- and if the past four years are any indication, they'll be expected to produce actual victories, not moral ones.