June 21, 2011
OMAHA, Neb. — No. 4 national seed South Carolina (52-14) scored three times in the top of the first and never looked back as they handed top-ranked Virginia (55-11) a 7-1 setback Tuesday night in a winner’s bracket game at the 2011 College World Series. The victory extended Carolina’s postseason winning streak to 13 games dating back to last year, matching a NCAA Tournament record (Regional, Super Regional, and MCWS). Tuesday’s win also marked the squad’s fifth victory of the season over a top-ranked team, as they defeated both Vanderbilt and Florida twice during the regular season when they were No. 1. The Gamecocks will be in action again on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET when they will face the winner of Thursday’s elimination game between Virginia and California. Friday’s game will be televised on ESPN and can be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network.
“We played probably one of our better games of the year tonight and we certainly needed it playing a team the quality of Virginia,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “We pitched extremely well. We played real tough defense, had some timely hitting. Really, probably can’t play any better than that.”
For the second straight game, the Gamecocks put together a productive first inning. After the first two batters were retired, Christian Walker reached on an error. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a run-scoring double into the right-centerfield gap for his first RBI since April 19. Adrian Morales bounced a single over the first baseman’s head, scoring Bradley Jr. to make it 2-0. Morales was awarded third base on the play when Virginia errantly tossed the relay throw into the Gamecock dugout. Brady Thomas then belted a double that bounced at the foot of the centerfield wall, scoring Morales, and giving Carolina an early 3-0 lead.
Carolina extended its lead in the third. Morales, Thomas and Peter Mooney stroked consecutive two-out singles, plating a run and giving the Gamecocks a 4-0 advantage.
The Gamecocks chased Virginia starter Will Roberts in the fourth inning when Jake Williams led off with a triple to right-center and scored on Evan Marzilli’s double to left. After Wingo sacrificed Marzilli to third, Walker greeted reliever Cody Winiarski with a double down the left field line, extending the lead to 6-0. Roberts was tagged with the loss, just his second of the season in 13 decisions. Williams’ triple, his sixth of the season, ties the single-season record at South Carolina held by current South Carolina undergraduate assistant coach Brian Buscher in 2002.
Virginia finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when John Hicks hammered a 1-0 offering from Colby Holmes over the left field wall for a solo home run. Hicks’s eighth of the season was the first hit allowed by Holmes on the evening.
The Cavaliers tried to mount a rally in the fifth. They loaded the bases on two hits and a walk with just one out, forcing head coach Ray Tanner to go to his bullpen. But senior reliever John Taylor worked out of the jam by inducing an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play to preserve the 6-1 advantage. Holmes left the contest after allowing just one run on four hits while matching his career high with seven strikeouts. Taylor was credited with the win after tossing a career-high 4.1 scoreless innings of one-hit relief, improving his record to 7-1 on the season.
“Colby gave us a quality start,” added Tanner. “I really felt bad getting him out of there when I did, but we lost the pop-up in the sky there, and just felt like we needed to try to put a ball on the ground. It was 6-1 at that point and they were getting ready to get back in the game. Fortunately, J.T. rode a comebacker and we got out of that. As I said, that is a huge inning. We played extremely well on all fronts and won one of the biggest games of the year for us.”
South Carolina added an insurance run in the eighth. Robert Beary led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on Walker’s RBI single to right.
An announced crowd of 22,027 was on hand to see the Gamecocks pound out 13 hits on the night, including three each by Morales and Thomas. Virginia was limited to five hits and committed all three of the game’s errors.
The 13-game NCAA Tournament streak matches Southern Cal (1972-74) and LSU (1997-98). South Carolina is 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament and is the only remaining unbeaten team in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Taylor moved into a tie for second place in NCAA history with his 47th appearance of the season. Taylor is tied with Rob Wooten (North Carolina, 2007) and Scott Wright (Cal State Fullerton, 1984). Connor Falkenbach (Florida, 2005) holds the record with 51 appearances.
South Carolina is 31-2 when scoring first and 22-1 when scoring in the first inning. Five of South Carolina’s seven runs against Virginia were in two-out situations, as the Gamecocks went 7-for-18 (.389) in two-out situations for the evening.