OMAHA, Neb. – South Carolina’s offense made sure that no late inning heroics would be needed Tuesday night against Virginia. The Gamecocks pounded out 13 hits to put away the Cavaliers early and cruise to a 7-1 win.
South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner inserted Jackie Bradley Jr. into the cleanup spot, a game after returning to the lineup following a two-month absence in the No. 9 hole. The move paid off.
Bradley Jr. ripped a RBI double in a three-run first-inning for the Gamecocks, and finished the game 2-for-5. It was the junior’s first RBI since April 19, and has led South Carolina into Friday’s game with a perfect 2-0 record in Omaha.
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“It’s been a long year as far as putting lineups together,” Tanner said. “I’ve spent more time than any time in my career on it. I thought about this one right up to the point I had to turn it in, and I asked Jackie where he felt comfortable and he told me fifth. So I told him that if he’s comfortable there, I’ll move him up one more spot.”
The 2010 CWS Most Outstanding Player wasn’t the only Gamecock to light up the scoreboard. The Nos. 3 thru 6 hitters went a combined 10-for-20, including Brady Thomas’ 3-for-4 performance.
While those numbers would be impressive in any contest, they look even better when you take into account Virginia’s starting pitcher, Will Roberts, who entered the game with an 11-1 record and a 1.58 ERA.
Roberts isn’t used to getting knocked around.
The junior was tagged for eight hits and six runs (three earned) in only 3 1/3 innings. It marked the shortest start of the season for Roberts, and tied career highs with the six runs, eight hits allowed.
The Gamecocks handed Roberts only the second loss in his three-year career to drop his record to 18-2.
“They got a lot of big clutch hits and took advantage of their opportunities when they had them,” Roberts said of South Carolina. “It’s a credit to their hitters. They weren’t going to give in with two strikes. They were pretty aggressive early in the count.”
Simply the Best: California head coach David Esquer not only picked up the Golden Bears’ first College World Series victory since 1981 on Tuesday, but also garnered the National Coach of the Year Award presented by the National College Baseball Writers Association. Esquer led the Bears to their first CWS appearance since 1992 despite an emotional season that included the program being cut in September and then reinstated six months later.
“The whole day’s been amazing,” Esquer said. “You can’t be a good coach without good players … if our players can come out here and perform like they did today under elimination circumstances. Thankfully for us one of our rallying clauses is to try to be as loose as possible, and that serves us well in big moments. It’s been a really, really gratifying and humbling to have both in one day.”
Cal’s 38 wins this season is the most victories since the 1991 squad went 37-27 and advanced to the final of the 1991 NCAA Wichita State Regional.
Also receiving awards on Tuesday were Texas ace right-hander Taylor Jungman and Longhorns’ closer Corey Knebel. Jungmann claimed the 25th annual Dick Howser Trophy — given to college baseball’s player of the year — after compiling a 13-3 record and 1.60 ERA with five complete games and 125 strikeouts.
Knebel, the NCBWA Freshman Pitcher of the Year, was named the NCBWA Stopper of the Year – the first freshman to claim the honor. He set the school’s freshmen record with a nation-leading 19 saves and was 3-2 with a 1.13 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. Knebel surrendered just 28 hits and seven earned runs on the year, while holding opponents to a .151 batting average.
Let’s Play Three: Unfortunately for fans and players at the College World Series, suspended games have become somewhat routine in recent years.
The Florida-Vanderbilt game marked the second consecutive year, and third time in four years that a CWS game has been suspended and resumed the next day. In 2010, Game 8 was suspended with Clemson leading 6-1 in the top of the sixth inning. Clemson held on for a 6-4 win when the game was resumed the next day.
It was the second time in 2011 that a Florida-Vanderbilt game was suspended and finished the next day, with the May 13th meeting having to be finished on May 14. That too, was a Florida victory, as the Gators won 6-5 despite trailing 3-1 overnight.
In the latest suspended game between the two teams, Florida didn’t have to score a run to win, which is something head coach Kevin O’Sullivan hasn’t seen too often.
“As far as the no runs, no, I don’t remember that,” O’Sullivan said. “But like I said, the eerie thing about today was you knew they had Clinard, they had Williams, and with the two run lead, it was going to be very difficult for us to score. That was the most uncomfortable thing is we knew the margin for error was going to be very small today.”
Noting the CWS
• Florida and Vanderbilt combined for 23 strikeouts, one shy of being one of the top five combined totals of all-time for a nine-inning game.
• Vanderbilt’s fifth-inning RBI single by Anthony Gomez snapped a 21.2 inning scoreless streak versus Florida, as the last run the Commodores scored against Florida was in the fourth inning of the series finale in Nashville on May 15, a game that went 12 innings.
• Texas and Texas A&M were the first teams eliminated from the 2011 CWS. The last time two teams from the same state tied for seventh was Georgia and Georgia Tech in 2006. The last time that two teams from the same conference were the first teams eliminated was in 2004, when SEC teams Arkansas and Georgia both went winless in two games.
• As a team known for solid defensive play, Virginia’s shaky fielding led to an uncharacteristic three errors against South Carolina that cost the Cavaliers dearly against the Gamecocks. UVa, which entered the CWS with the fifth-best fielding percentage (.980) in the nation this season, had made just five total errors in seven previous NCAA postseason games. Two of the miscues were in the first inning, and led to three unearned runs. The three errors were the most by the Cavaliers since a 5-4 win against Miami (Fla.) on May 15.
• The SEC is 4-1 in the 2011 CWS, with both Florida and South Carolina starting 2-0. The last time a conference had two teams start bracket play 2-0 was in 1979 when Texas and Arkansas of the Southwest Conference did so. The last time two teams from the same conference played in the national title game was in 1998 when Southern California met Arizona State.
• Eighteen of the past 21 CWS champions have started 2-0 in bracket play with the exceptions being Southern California in 1998, Oregon State in 2005 and South Carolina last season. This is the third time in 10 CWS appearances that South Carolina has started 2-0. The other times were 1975 and 1977. South Carolina eventually won its third game in both of those campaigns.