Hello, back-to-back national champions.
Wow—I am at a loss for words. The South Carolina Gamecocks have done it again; with a 5-2 win over Florida, the Gamecocks became the 2011 College World Series National Champions.
Tanner has been known to whittle down his lineup during the postseason, but using only three different starting pitchers and three relievers? One would assume that the bullpen would be strapped and unable to perform up to par. Not here.
Gamecock ace pitcher Michael Roth threw a whopping 342 pitches. What’s even more impressive was closer Matt Price’s pitching. During the 13th inning in the game against Virginia, he threw 95 pitches.
As a closer he is usually expected to throw around 30, and then to make it even more impressive was that he came back on only two days of rest to finish up Game 1 against Florida. If that wasn’t enough, he came back yet again to throw the final outs to seal the title for the Gamecocks.
After two hitless innings, shortstop Peter Mooney blasted one to left field for a double, catcher Robert Beary executed a sacrifice bunt to advance Mooney to third. Florida pitcher, Whitson, then walked right fielder Evan Marzilli, forced second baseman Scott Wingo to fly out to center and then walked Jackie Bradley Jr.
Mooney, Marzilli and Bradley all scored to give South Carolina an early lead. First baseman Christian Walker reached base on an error and the designated hitter Brady Thomas singled. Florida stopped further damage when third baseman Adrian Morales grounded out to the pitcher.
In the top of the fourth, Florida catcher Mike Zunino answered with a home run. Unfortunately for Florida, however, their next three batters were all victim to South Carolina’s incredible defense; two back-to-back ground outs to short and one to second.
In the fifth inning, Carolina loaded the bases, but failed to bring anyone home. The chance for some major insurance was missed; but the disappointment didn’t last long. Mooney hit a home run off the first pitch to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
The Florida catcher, Zunino, served to be a problem for the South Carolina pitching staff; he had a solo home run and then scored again in the eighth. After Zunino’s at bat, South Carolina replaced bridgeman John Taylor with the infallible Matt Price. (His sister yelled out, “Prepare to be PRICE-checked.”)
The Gamecocks earned another run in the eighth after Beary singled, moved to second on Marzilli’s sacrifice, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Wingo’s single up the middle.
It was top of the ninth, Gamecocks up 5-2, and the crowd was starting to get a bit rowdy. Fans were jumping up and down, screaming, laughing and high-fiving. They could already taste the title; it was a mere three outs away, and with Price on the mound, Gamecock Nation knew that they could call it a sure thing.
I only have the last two outs recorded in my book; a fly out to center and a ground out to first. All I know is that they got the out (the third was a fly out to Bradley Jr.) and in that moment when Price’s arms flew up, they had won.
Nothing could be more exciting than getting the win, or so you’d think. For all the Gamecocks watching at home or at the Colonial Life Area back in Columbia, I’m sure it was thrilling, but to be there, to be sitting with Matt’s mom, to be with the players when it happened…exhilarating.
What sets South Carolina’s win apart is not only the fact that it’s their second title in a row—the last time a team won back-to-back titles was Oregon State in 2006-07—but the fact that they were undefeated.
They broke the record of 15 straight wins previously held by Texas. The Gamecock’s last loss in NCAA play was the first game of last year’s College World Series against Oklahoma.