June 24, 2011
OMAHA, Neb. — The No. 4 national seed South Carolina Gamecocks took advantage of two throwing errors that led to the winning run and advanced to the Championship Series of the 2011 College World Series with a 3-2 13-inning walk-off win over the No. 1 national seed Virginia Cavaliers on Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. The Gamecocks will face their SEC Eastern Division rival Florida Gators in the best-of-three Championship Series that gets underway on Monday. Game time is set for 8 p.m. ET and the contest will be televised nationally on ESPN.
With tonight’s win, South Carolina sets and NCAA Tournament record (Regional, Super Regional, MCWS) with its 14th consecutive victory dating back to last season’s MCWS. The Gamecocks broke the mark of 13 they shared with Southern Cal (1972-74) and LSU (1997-98) as programs to win 13 consecutive NCAA Tournament games. South Carolina is now 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament and is the only remaining unbeaten team in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
“It really has been amazing,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “I just – I admire these guys and the players we’ve had the last couple of years. Their work ethic, their desire to play, to win – they show up and go every day and we’ve been very fortunate. These (players) do it between the lines. And that’s just hard – it’s so hard – and I coached for a long time and was unable to get to Omaha as a head coach and then we were able to be here for a few times. It’s something you never take for granted. We played in the Finals last year and we get back there again. It’s really hard to explain. I’m grateful. These guys deserve a tremendous amount of credit. They’ve been able to perform in the most difficult circumstances. We’ve had some outstanding players at different times step up. It’s all I can say, really. I’m just ecstatic to be part of this group.”
Brady Thomas led off the bottom of the 13th with a solid single to center for the Gamecocks (53-14). Cody Winiarski, the fourth Cavalier pitcher of the evening, tried to nail pinch runner Adam Matthews at second base on Peter Mooney’s bunt attempt, but threw wildly and both runners were safe. Robert Beary then laid down a sacrifice bunt that Winiarski threw past the third base bag and bounced out of play, allowing Matthews to scamper home with the winning run. The win sends the defending national champion Gamecocks to the Championship round for the second straight year.
“I obviously knew we were bunting,” said Matthews. “The pitcher, he made a heck of a play when I was going to second. Supposedly he swung it down there really good. He overthrew it a bit. I saw it get past him. Thought about going to third but I’m glad I didn’t because the center fielder was backing up pretty good. Beary had a great bunt there then and I slid in head first to third. And the umpire motioned, signaled I was safe. I got up. I didn’t know where the ball was. Coach Holbrook and everyone was telling me to go, go, go, so it worked out well.”
Gamecock reliever Matt Price (7-3) pulled a Houdini act in escaping the top of the 13th inning, giving Carolina a chance for the win in the bottom of the frame. David Coleman opened the Virginia 13th with a leadoff walk off. Colin Harrison followed with a single to short. Keith Werman bunted for a base hit to load the bases with no outs. After a strikeout, John Barr lined out to second baseman Scott Wingo, who flipped to shortstop Mooney, doubling Harrington off second. Price threw 5.2 scoreless innings of relief, allowing seven hits and five walks with five strikeouts while throwing 95 pitches. Price’s 5.2 innings was a season-high and the fourth time that he has thrown at least 3.0 innings this year.
“I don’t know where to begin,” said Tanner. “That game had so much involved in that and I said to Michael (Roth) after the game, I said: Did you pitch tonight? It seemed like so long ago that he was in the game. But he had a great start for us and put us in a great position. We misplayed a couple of balls to give them a chance to tie it up and then it was off and running. We escaped a couple of jams. They got out of a couple. Coach O’Connor and his staff, they are tremendous players. And we knew it was going to be like this. We didn’t expect to be extra innings so much, but this game certainly could have gone either way and we just kept hanging in there and were fortunate to get a couple of breaks at the end.”
The Cavaliers (56-12) broke out in front with a run in the top of the second inning. Steven Proscia led off with a walk, moved to third on a single by Jared King and scored on a double play grounder by Kenny Swab.
The Gamecocks got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning as they jumped on Cavalier reliever Kyle Crockett. Christian Walker belted a one-out double to the right field wall. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a single to short and Adrian Morales was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Brady Thomas lofted a two-run double to left, giving Carolina its first lead of the game at 2-1.
The one-run lead held until the eighth inning when the Gamecock defense, which had been steady all season, betrayed them. Curtis Taylor reached on a throwing error by Morales to open the inning. After he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, John Hicks grounder scooted between the legs of Mooney for an error, scoring Taylor with the game-tying run.
The Gamecocks wasted a golden opportunity in the bottom of the eighth inning. Jake Williams singled to lead off the frame and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Wingo was hit by a pitch and Walker walked on four pitches to load the bases. But Cavalier closer Branden Kline was able to strikeout both Bradley Jr. and Morales, ending the threat. The Gamecocks fanned a season-high 18 times on the evening.
Both teams had a chance to score in the 12th, as each team put runners on first and second with no outs, but in each instance, were unable to push across a run.
Both starting pitchers, the staff aces, were impressive. Carolina lefthander Michael Roth worked the first seven innings, allowing four hits and one run with two walks and three strikeouts.
Virginia southpaw hurler Danny Hultzen, the second player taken in the MLB draft earlier this month, was outstanding in his 3.0 innings of work before leaving the game due to illness. He fanned eight of the 10 batters he faced, while throwing 32 of 40 pitches for strikes.
Cavalier hurler Branden Kline was effective in relief, hurling 5.0 scoreless frames, allowing just three hits with seven strikeouts.
A stadium record crowd of 25,882 was on hand for tonight’s contest.
The 53rd win for Carolina this season ties the 2004 team for fourth on the school’s single-season wins list. Carolina is now 2-0 on the year in extra-inning games. Virginia’s run in the top of the second inning was the first earned run allowed by Michael Roth since May 13, snapping a streak of 38.1 innings. Roth, who has a 0.98 ERA in 137.1 innings this year, has allowed two earned runs or less in all 19 starts.
Brady Thomas’ two-RBI game was his 13th multi-RBI game of the year, second best on the team. Scott Wingo has now been hit by 62 pitches in his career, extending his own school record. Wingo has reached base safely in 21 straight games. He has now appeared in 252 career games moving past Landon Powell for second place on the school’s career games list. John Taylor moved into second place in NCAA history with his 48th appearance on the year. He has 76 career appearances that ranks him seventh all-time at Carolina as well. The Gamecocks are 29-3 when holding an opponent to three runs or less.
South Carolina has become the fifth program to appear in multiple MCWS Championship Finals, joining Texas (2004-05, 09); Oregon State (2006-07), North Carolina (2006-07) and Florida (2005, 11). This will be the fifth time in school history that the Gamecocks will compete for the national title in NCAA Division I baseball. Carolina also played for the title in 1975, 1977, 2002 and 2010.