Momentum means everything to South Carolina and Arizona in Game 2 of the College World Series final.
The Gamecocks gave up four runs before the fifth inning in Sunday night's first game. Before they could even get on the board, the Wildcats had inflicted considerable damage. Forrest Koumas struggled on the bump for South Carolina, and the Gamecocks couldn't get to Arizona's Konner Wade.
This must change if South Carolina wants to extend this series to a decisive Game 3.
In last night's game, South Carolina had its backs against the wall. Robert Refsnyder hit an early home run, and the Wildcats rode Wade the rest of the way.
Arizona is known for their tendencies. They leave their starters in for a long time, and their bullpen isn't used very often. You have to get to their starters early, or manager Andy Lopez will ride them for nine innings.
South Carolina has to disturb Arizona's momentum in the early innings of Game 2. If it can get to James Farris early, it'll have a chance to extend this series.
Farris isn't as good as Wade. He shouldn't present the same challenges that Wade did. In 16 starts this season, he was 7-3 with a 4.18 ERA.
He hasn't pitched since June 3, and this is a major stage. South Carolina must make it a point to disrupt him early. If the Gamecocks allow him to feel comfortable, he will turn his inexperience into steely confidence.
The Gamecocks must make him feel vincible early. After all, they are the defending back-to-back national champions. It's their crown to lose despite Arizona's hot streak entering this year's final series.
South Carolina is known for its pitching staff and staunch defense. Its ideal situation is a low-scoring pitchers duel.
But, just to be sure, the Gamecocks must score some runs early. Their offense isn't capable of clearing deficits of five runs or more.
The equation is simple for Ray Tanner's squad: hit the ball well, play solid defense and pitch well late. If it does that, it will force the College World Series' ultimate game.