OMAHA, Neb. – South Carolina has a flair for the dramatic.

That’s an understatement.

The Gamecocks picked up right where they left off the last time we saw them in Omaha, winning another game in their final at-bat 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth with a long RBI single off the rightfield fence by senior Scott Wingo.

Being in a tight game late was nothing new for head coach Ray Tanner and his team. They won the final game in Rosenblatt Stadium with a walk-off single in extra innings to win the program’s first national championship.

“We had the last walk-off in Rosenblatt and the first one in the new stadium … that’s pretty special,” South Carolina starting pitcher Michael Roth said.

It was fitting for Wingo to be the one to collect the big hit. It was the second baseman’s career-best fourth hit of the game, and he reached base five times.

The senior was also the player that scored the game-winning run the last time South Carolina played in Omaha.

“I knew there were bases loaded, no outs and I needed to come up big,” Wingo said. “I tried to go up there and put a good swing on it. I took that first pitch and was a little mad at myself because I probably could have driven that pretty good, but once I got two strikes I just went out there and battled.”

Early on, it didn’t look like Wingo or any of the Gamecocks would be able to drive in a winning run. Texas A&M scored four times in the top of the first – all unearned – against Roth, thanks to a leadoff error by first baseman Christian Walker.

But Roth settled in and lowered his ERA to 0.97, with some help from his lineup, and the Aggies own field woes. The Gamecocks also scored four times in the first, before the teams traded zeroes until Wingo’s big hit in the ninth.

“He definitely got better as he went,” Texas A&M starting pitcher Brandon Wood said of his counterpart. “I don’t know if it was nerves in the first inning. His command of the strike zone got better. His pitches were a lot firmer and he had good breaking ball going.”

It’s been well documented that it’s been a different year for Tanner, who turned in his 41st different starting lineup of 2011 on Sunday. The latest, though, included 2010 CWS Most Outstanding Player, Jackie Bradley, Jr., hitting in the ninth spot in the order. It’s somewhere that the junior isn’t used to hitting, but after nearly two months of not swinging a bat, any contribution was a welcome sight.

“It was great to be back out there and help my team win,” Jackie Bradley, Jr. said. “I feel good and I’m getting more relaxed out there with each at bat.”

The junior contributed with a single in the ninth which put the winning run on third base, and finished 1-for-4 in his return.

Let’s Get Some Runs: The drop in scoring in college baseball in 2011 has become a rehearsed topic and the trend has continued at the 2011 CWS – at least through the first four games.

The average runs per game stands at nine, which is the lowest since 2005 when only seven runs per game were scored in the first two days of the College World Series.

California and Virginia helped lower the number, thanks to a scoreless game through six innings Sunday. It’s something that Omaha really isn’t used to in June.

It marked the first time since May 31, 1987, that two teams were scoreless through the sixth inning when Florida State and Arizona State did the same. The Seminoles won the game 3-0.

The highest runs per game through four games since 1991? It came back in 2001 with 20.75 per game.

Rod Booker
California

Happy Father’s Day: There is probably no better way to spend Father’s Day than at the College World Series, and two families that can attest to that are the O’Connor and Booker clans.

Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor, a native of nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa, and a former Creighton University player, enjoyed the support of a large group of family members decked out in Cavalier gear, including wife Cindy, and his three children – Ellie, Maggie and Dillon.  O’Connor has strong ties to the Omaha area baseball community and College World Series. He pitched for the Bluejays in the 1991 CWS, and his photo was used as an inspiration for the Road to Omaha statue that sits in front of TD Ameritrade Park. 

California senior left fielder Austin Booker gave his dad Rod a great Father’s Day gift as he followed in the elder Booker’s footsteps with an appearance in Omaha. Booker, the Bears’ leadoff hitter, joined his dad to become the 10th father-son combination to appear in the College World Series.  Rod was the starting shortstop for the Bears’ 1980 CWS team, and went on to play for the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. The last father-son combo to achieve the rare feat was Arizona State’s Randy (1981) and Matt Newman (2009).

Noting the CWS
• Former Nebraska pitcher and current New York Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain took in the nightcap Sunday, wearing an Aggies hat. Out for the remainder of 2011, Chamberlain played for current Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress when he was an assistant with the Cornhuskers in 2005.

• California has now faced the top five college players taken in the 2011 MLB Draft this season (Garrit Cole – No. 1; Danny Hultzen – No. 2; Trevor Bauer – No. 3; Anthony Rendon – No. 6, George Springer – No. 11). The Golden Bears could potentially face the sixth college player taken, Texas’ Taylor Jungmann, if they, and Texas, both reach the CWS Championship Series.

• Cal’s ninth-inning run avoided a shutout, which if it had happened, would’ve been a rarity. The Golden Bears have been shutout only one time in their 66 all-time postseason games dating back to 1947. Cal has not been shutout in any of its 17 CWS games.

• Cal head coach David Esquer becomes the 14th person to play and coach in a CWS game, as he played for Stanford during the Cardinal’s CWS appearances in 1985 and 1987. Both Esquer and Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor were both former CWS participants as players.

• The eight combined runs by Texas A&M and South Carolina is the highest first inning total in a CWS game since June 6, 1995, when Florida State (2) and USC (6) also combined for eight runs. USC won the game 16-11.