South Carolina makes the right calls
Notes: Gamecocks become just third team to win 15 in a row
OMAHA, Neb. – Ray Tanner can do no wrong in Omaha the last two years. Every button Tanner pushes recently has been the right one – with a little help from Scott Wingo and his friends on Monday.
The Gamecocks' torrid streak of winning dramatic games at the College World Series continued in Game 1 of the Championship Series with a 2-1 win against Florida in 11 innings.
Trailing 1-0 in the eighth, Wingo knocked in Peter Mooney to tie the game with two outs and set up a spot where Tanner could push a button. The Gamecocks’ head coach decided to load the bases with an intentional walk following a leadoff walk to Mike Zunino and a single by Brian Johnson.
Then Wingo took over.
A sharp grounder to second that saw the senior dive to his right to make the stop and throw home to get the lead runner resulted in the first out. Daniel Pigott strode to the plate next. Bases still loaded. Another ground ball to second. Wingo fired home once again, and this time, catcher Robert Beary threw on to first to complete the rare 4-2-3 double play and end the inning.
Wingo is always in the middle of it, even despite a tough start to the night – going 0 for 4 to start against Florida starter Hudson Randall.
“Well, Randall, he had my number all night,” Wingo said. “And that last at bat I think I swung through two sliders, and I just said to myself: ‘Stay late. If I get beat inside, I get beat inside.’ And he threw another curveball and I was able to hit it up the middle. And those plays [in the field], I'm out there to make plays. And John [Taylor] gave us two ground balls. So that was big.”
More drama followed in the 10th. Rightfielder Jake Williams gunned down Cody Dent at home plate to end the tenth inning and give the Gamecocks a chance in the 11th.
First baseman Christian Walker almost didn’t have the opportunity to be in the middle of things. The Gamecocks’ slugger was diagnosed with a fractured left wrist Monday, but was in the starting lineup and smoked a one out base-hit in the 11th inning.
Tanner was able to push another button.
Pinch hitting for clean-up hitter Brady Thomas, Adam Matthews swung through a pitch on a hit-and-run. Walker slid in with the ball flying into centerfield as Florida catcher Mike Zunino’s throw sailed high. Walker got up and continued toward third base. As he slid into third, Bryson Smith’s throw from centerfield bounced out of play.
The Gamecocks had their first lead of the game.
“Matthews was up,” said Tanner of the situation in the top of the 11th. “Christian's not a guy that they would expect to take off in that situation. We sort of did it to element of surprise. We didn't plan on Matthews swinging through the pitch. We were hoping to maybe slash that around somewhere. But he got a pretty good jump, and fortunately it wasn't a good throw down there and he was able to move up.”
That lead stuck thanks to another save by closer Matt Price. The sophomore has now appeared in all four CWS games.
In eerily similar fashion to the game last Friday against Virginia, South Carolina won on back-to-back throwing errors in extra innings. There’s just something about this team. The start by freshman Forrest Koumas proves that. It was about as good as Tanner could have hoped for. Koumas went 5.2 innings allowing only three hits and one run while striking out four.
They like to grind, and judging by their 23-12 record when the opponent scores first, including 3-0 at the CWS, it’s a comfortable spot for them to be in. The Gamecocks won their fourth consecutive extra-inning game at the College World Series, dating back to their final game of the 2010 season. Only two programs have done that before.
It also helps when the bullpen has been absolutely lights out in the postseason. South Carolina’s bullpen is now 6-0 with four saves and sports a 0.56 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched. And the truly remarkable stat: they haven’t allowed an extra-base hit.
With one more win, the Gamecocks would do something else pretty remarkable: a second national championship in a row.
Noting the CWS
• South Carolina won its 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament game Monday night, matching the all-time record held by Texas in 1983 and 1984. The Gamecocks have also won their last 10 CWS games dating back to last season. They join USC (1972-74) and LSU (1996-98) as the only teams to ever win 10 consecutive CWS games. South Carolina’s last NCAA Tournament defeat was a 4-3 loss to Oklahoma on June 20, 2010 in the opening round of the 2010 CWS.
• Florida had committed just three errors in their first three CWS games before committing three on Monday. It is just the fifth time this season that Florida has committed three or more errors in a game.
• The last time a conference won three consecutive CWS titles was the Pac-10 Conference between 1986 and 1988 (Arizona, 1986; Stanford, 1987-88). The SEC will be guaranteed a third national title in a row with Florida or South Carolina winning this season. The SEC has won the last two CWS titles (LSU, 2009; South Carolina, 2010) and had a team play for the national title in each of the last four seasons. The last time two teams from the same conference played for a national title was in 1998 when Southern California met Arizona State. It also happened in 1997 (SEC) and 1988 (Pac-10).
• South Carolina is bidding to become only the ninth repeat champion in CWS history. In fact, only five programs have repeated as national champion, most recently Oregon State in 2006-07. The complete list of repeat national champions includes: Texas (1949-50); Southern California (1970-71-72-73-74); Stanford (1987-88); LSU (1996-97); and Oregon State (2006-07).