College Baseball World Series 2012: Game 1 Is a Must Win for South Carolina

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJune 24, 2012

Photo Credit: Mark Crammer
Photo Credit: Mark Crammer

South Carolina enters the championship round of the 2012 College World Series as the two-time defending champions, giving them the chance to become the first team in 40 years to three-peat.

Yet, it is they who must win the first game to keep their title hopes off of life support. 

This is not the same Gamecocks team that captured the past two titles. They lost five regulars from their championship lineup that won it all a year ago. 

They also lost a game to Arkansas in their opener in Omaha. That loss snapped their streak of 22 straight wins in NCAA tournament games. 

The loser's bracket seemed like a daunting task at the time, but the Gamecocks ran off three straight wins. Here they are back in the finals. 

This is clearly a resilient team, but they are not resilient enough to come back from a loss in the opener. Arizona is too good and too hot right now. 

The Wildcats cruised into the championship round without a loss. They have done this with offense, defense and pitching. They are one of the most balanced teams you will ever see. 

They are fourth in the nation with a team batting average of .330 and sixth in scoring. Those bats have only been gaining steam as the games gain more meaning. 

Still, it is not the Wildcats' bats that makes Game 1 a must win for the Gamecocks—it is their pitching. 

Arizona's starting staff is amazing. They are talented and can go deep into games, which is good because the one weakness of this team is their bullpen. 

Konner Wade, Kurt Heyer and James Farris are the Wildcats' top three starters. All are rested and ready to go. 

Wade is going to start Game 1. If the Gamecocks lose that contest, they will face the task of having to beat Arizona two straight with two excellent starters ready to take the hill.

If this series gets to Game 3, the Wildcats pen will be bolstered by the fact that they don't have to save any arms for future games. 

That is too much to ask of any team—even one as resilient as these Gamecocks.