June 27, 2011
OMAHA, Neb. — For the second straight game, the Gamecocks used a pair of throwing errors to score the winning run in extra innings, as No. 4 national seed South Carolina outlasted the No. 2 national seed Florida Gators, 2-1 in 11 innings, in the first game of the best-of-three College World Series Championship Series on Monday night in Omaha.
With one out in the 11th, Christian Walker, who was playing with a fractured hamate bone in his left wrist, singled up the middle. With Walker attempting to steal second base, catcher Mike Zunino’s throw sailed into centerfield, allowing Walker to scramble to third. Centerfielder Bryson Smith’s throw then bounced past the third base bag and into the stands, allowing Walker to score the go-ahead run.
“I knew it was going to take a lot of pain specifically for me not to play,” said Walker. I can’t say enough about (South Carolina athletic trainer) Brainard Cooper and Dr. (John) Walsh and Dr. (Chris) Mazoue (of USC Orthopedics & Sports Medicine) and (also) everybody at Methodist Hospital for doing everything they did. And you know, for the last half of yesterday, I think I didn’t think I was going to be able to play. But you know, they came out and really – I mean I’m speechless about it. They did a great job. I can’t thank them enough.”
Florida (53-18) got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning without the benefit of a hit. Tyler Thompson led off the inning with a walk, was sacrificed to second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Cody Dent’s sacrifice fly.
The lead lasted until the eighth when the Gamecocks (54-14) finally got to Gator starter Hudson Randall. Peter Mooney led off with a walk, moved to second on Robert Beary’s sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on Evan Marzilli’s fly to center and scored on Scott Wingo’s clutch two-out RBI single up the middle. Wingo’s hit was his first since going 4-for-4 in the MCWS opener against Texas A&M on June 19.
“Randall had my number all night,” said Wingo. “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. He threw another curveball and I was able to hit it up the middle.”
The Gators had a strong opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. With John Taylor on the mound for Carolina, Zunino opened the inning with a walk. After failing on two sacrifice bunt attempts, Brian Johnson laced a single to right field, advancing Zunino to third. John Adams was intentionally walked to load the bases with no one out. With the infield pulled in, Wingo made a diving stop on Tyler Thompson’s grounder and threw to the plate to nail Zunino for the first out. Daniel Pigott then bounced into a 4-2-3 inning-ending double play, sending the game into extra innings.
“After we got an out and the infield was in and Pigott comes up, he’s a good runner,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “We turned it the hard way. Would we have been able to turn it had (the defense) been back and you would say, well, maybe, because it seemed like a tailor-made double play. But he runs really well and you can’t be close, even if you don’t get a double play you get the out at the plate and you’re still playing. My coaches are sitting there and we were afraid that he’s such a good runner that he could stay out of a double play. That’s why I kept (the infield) in.”
“I’m out there to make plays,” added Wingo. “John gave us two ground balls, so that was big. I just focus on the ball. Big pick by (South Carolina catcher Robert) Beary. Real big pick by Beary.”
Both teams had a chance to score in the 10th. The Gamecocks had runners on first and second with one out before Nick Maronde, the fourth Gator hurler, worked out of the jam. The Gators nearly plated the winning run in the bottom of the frame when Zunino singled to left, but Jake Williams gunned down Dent, who was trying to score from second base, to end the threat.
“I had one of those weird intuitions that the ball was going to get hit to me, honestly, and I was just ready to make an accurate throw and try to get it in the air and make it have a close chance for a play,” said Williams. “The ball was sure enough hit to me and I got a good throw on it.”
Taylor worked two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win and improve his record to 8-1, while Maronde (0-1) was tagged with the loss. Matt Price worked around a leadoff single in the 11th for his 19th save of the season. That save matches Texas’ Corey Knebel for the national lead. Price picked up his first-ever MCWS save and now has 29 in his career, one short of the school record 30 set by Rob Mosser (1990-93). Carolina’s bullpen has a 4-0 record and a 0.00 ERA in 17.2 innings of work in Omaha.
Forrest Koumas, the Gamecock starter, was effective in his first experience at the College World Series. He worked 5.2 innings, allowing just three hits and one run with one walk and four strikeouts. The freshman hurler, who was making his first appearance since a four-inning stint against Stetson on June 5, threw 86 pitches, 54 for strikes.
“Coach Meyers just told me to stick to what I’ve been doing, hitting the spots and let the defense play behind me,” said Koumas.
Hudson Randall, the Gators’ sophomore right-hander, allowed just three runners through the first seven frames – a first-inning double by Christian Walker, an infield error on a ball hit by Adrian Morales in the second, and a fourth-inning single by Morales. He left the contest after tossing 7.2 innings in which he surrendered just three hits and one run with one walk and six strikeouts. He threw 84 pitches, 56 for strikes.
“Incredible college baseball game,” said Tanner. “I thought we were going to have trouble getting a guy on base there for a long time against Hudson Randall. He was very special. You see (Danny) Hultzen (of Virginia) a few nights ago, and you see Randall go out there tonight. Although they are different guys, they have one thing in common; they’re very special on the mound. We were just able to hang in there and keep to a minimum. Forrest did a nice job for us being a true freshman on this stage, he kept us alive and we were able to eventually tie it up with Wingo’s hit. But so many opportunities for them and we were able to get a couple of atom balls to keep them from taking the lead and Jake throws out a guy at the plate. We were just very fortunate to be able to win tonight.”
The Gamecocks have now tied NCAA records with 15 consecutive postseason wins and 10 consecutive wins in the College World Series.
Carolina is 3-0 in one-run games at the MCWS this year and 13-3 for the 2011 season in one-run contests. As a team, South Carolina has a 1.24 ERA in nine NCAA Tournament games. The Gamecocks’ bullpen is 6-0 with four saves and a 0.56 ERA in 32.1 innings and has not allowed an extra base hit. Taylor’s 49th appearance for the season puts him alone in second on the NCAA’s single-season list. His 77 career appearances have him seventh all-time at Carolina.
The Gamecocks are one win away from back-to-back National Championships. They will take on the Gators in game two of the best-of-three series Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 8 p.m. ET and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
There will be a watch party for South Carolina fans in Columbia at the Colonial Life Arena on Tuesday night. Admission is free. Doors will open at 7 p.m. with concessions also available.