The longer Arizona lets South Carolina hang around in the College World Series, the better the chances that USC will stage another big comeback.
That's why the Wildcats must get the job done on Monday night.
The Gamecocks have had to fight in order to stay alive in this year's postseason, and they've had to fight hard. They had their 22-game postseason winning streak snapped a week ago at the hands of Arkansas, and they had to take down those pesky Razorbacks a few days later in order to stay in the running for the championship.
They've had their backs against the wall before, and facing the Razorbacks—a team that had already beaten them once in the CWS—they managed to get the win they needed in order to survive.
The Wildcats, therefore, can't give South Carolina the opportunity to do the same thing in the championship.
There was a lot at stake in Monday night's CWS opener. For the Gamecocks, a win would give them the chance to breathe easy for once, taking the pressure off for the first time since Arkansas beat them a week ago.
For the Wildcats, though, a win would give them the chance to put the perennial front-runner in a hole it might not be able to climb out of. And the Wildcats, not the Gamecocks, would take advantage of the series, earning a resounding 5-1 win.
For Arizona, this postseason has been far easier than it's been for South Carolina. This, after all, is a team that hasn't been beaten since May 26, when it suffered a 9-7 loss to in-state rival Arizona State but still managed to salvage the series. It hasn't lost a series at all since early May, when it dropped two of three to Oregon.
Since that loss on May 6 to Oregon, though, Arizona has gone an astounding 17-2. During the CWS, it has taken down Florida State (twice), UCLA and South Carolina by a combined score of 23-7. If there is any team that looks like the eventual champion, it is this one; if there is any team that looks unbeatable, it is the Wildcats—not South Carolina.
Will Arizona still win the College World Series if it doesn't win Game 2?
South Carolina, chasing its third straight CWS championship, dropped three of four to close out the regular season before losing two of three to Vanderbilt and Florida to bow out of the SEC tournament. In its four wins in the CWS, it has won by a much slimmer 16-6 differential, and in Sunday's loss to Arizona, it looked like it couldn't muster the offense to handle the hot Wildcats.
For Arizona, halting their momentum right now would be crushing. To suffer a loss for the first time in a month, right when it matters the most, might be a setback this team can't mentally recover from quickly enough to take Game 3 on Tuesday. All it takes is one loss on the world's biggest stage for the doubts to start creeping in.
For the third consecutive year, South Carolina has solidified itself as the team nobody wants to face in the postseason. Now, Arizona has the chance to knock off that team, once and for all.
It's not technically a must-win, but there's no better time to get the job done.