The South Carolina baseball team is the two-time defending national champion, but they will face an upstart Kent State team that could end their title defense.
The Gamecocks were on a 22-game win streak at the College World Series before Arkansas ended the run win a 2-1 victory.
Now, the team must avoid a second straight loss in order to stay alive in the tournament.
Here are the three players that will be key to preventing elimination for South Carolina.
Jordan Montgomery, LHP
South Carolina will not be able to win unless it gets a solid performance from freshman starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery.
The lefty is 5-1 this season with a 4.05 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. He also has exceptional control on his pitches and has walked just nine batters this year.
There is no doubt that Montgomery is talented, as he was named to the 2012 Freshman All-American team, as noted on his South Carolina Athletics profile page. But he will have to show right from the start that inexperience will not affect him in this pressure-packed situation.
If Montgomery performs well on the mound, the Gamecocks will be nearly impossible to beat.
Christian Walker, 1B
Christian Walker has been a monster at the plate this season for South Carolina.
He is hitting .316 with a .529 slugging percentage and 11 home runs. He has batted in 54 runs and leads the Gamecocks in all four of these categories.
Walker is far and away the best hitter on his team, and he will shoulder the majority of the responsibility and provided Montgomery with run support.
If the Gamecocks hope to stay in Omaha, Walker will need to be productive at the plate against Kent State.
LB Dantzler, 3B
LB Danztler may not have the highest batting average on his team at .266, but he is still a productive hitter.
The third baseman is second on the team with nine home runs, and is tied for the team-lead with 15 doubles. He has a slugging percentage of .435.
Dantzler showed a penchant for late-game heroics earlier this postseason by driving in the game-winning run in South Carolina’s 12-inning game against Clemson in the Regional round.
He will have to show similar poise and concentration against Kent State in order to ensure a productive performance at the plate. If he does that, then the Gamecocks have an excellent chance to move on in the College World Series.
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