Still the one: Gamecocks perfect' in defending national championship
OMAHA, Neb. — The College World Series might have a new stadium in 2011. But it has the same winner as 2010.
Recreating the magic and mystique from a year ago, South Carolina is again college baseball's national champion.
Limited edition posters commemorating USC’s back-to-back national championships can be ordered now by calling 853-POST (7678) and will be available online at postandcourier.com/poster beginning Friday.
A special section celebrating the South Carolina Gamecocks’ second straight College World Series title. Only in Sunday’s print edition of The Post and Courier.
The Gamecocks on Tuesday night rode a strong outing from ace Michael Roth, pitching on three days' rest, and got timely hits to knock out SEC rival Florida, 5-2, in front of a record 26,721 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
'It's really difficult to put into words what we've experienced in the last few days,' USC coach Ray Tanner said. 'We really played some great baseball while we were here.
'It's hard for me to understand right now. It's going to take a few days.'
South Carolina (55-14) won the best-of-three championship series in two games, just as it did a year ago against UCLA. It won four of five games this season against Florida (53-19), the preseason No. 1.
'They just did a little bit more,' Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.
The Gamecocks are the sixth team to repeat as national champions, the first since Oregon State in 2006-07. They finished a perfect 10-0 in the NCAA tournament, becoming the first team to go undefeated since Miami in 2001. They have won 16 consecutive NCAA tournament games, setting a record.
Roth went 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs, to pick up his 14th win of the season. He threw 127 pitches after going seven innings Friday night against Virginia.
'Michael's got the biggest heart I've ever seen on a field,' said USC first baseman Christian Walker, who had two more hits Tuesday despite playing with a broken left hand. 'He put us on his back today.'
Roth's earned run average in the College World Series, including last season, is 1.17 in 38 1/3 innings — second-lowest among pitchers who have thrown more than 30 innings. His ERA this season, his first year as a full-time starter, was 1.06.
Closer Matt Price pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for his 20th save of the year. Price threw 95 pitches in that 13-inning win Friday. He tossed 16 on Monday against the Gators to get a save. He had enough fuel left for five outs Tuesday.
The last out, a fly ball to center, sent the Gamecocks into another Omaha dogpile.
'We're a bunch of average Joes,' Roth said.
No one seems to embody that more than Gamecocks second baseman Scott Wingo. The lightly recruited Greenville native — passed over by Clemson, where his dad played baseball — was named the CWS Most Outstanding Player.
Wingo scored the title-winning run a year ago in Rosenblatt Stadium, coming home after Whit Merrifield's single to right in the 11th inning against the Bruins. This year, it seemed as if Wingo was in the middle of every critical moment of the series — or at least most of them.
Even his last at-bat was an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning, plating an important insurance run to make it a three-run lead for USC.
'He's been a key ingredient to the success we've had,' Tanner said.
A three-run third inning, with two runs scoring as a result of Nolan Fontana's two-out error at short, seemed to quash what was left of Florida's spirit following a crushing loss Monday. Two throwing errors in the 11th inning allowed Walker to score the winning run in the series' first game.
'They were a little bit better than us in all phases,' said O'Sullivan, whose team was seeking the school's first baseball national championship. 'They earned it.'
Wingo and his teammates turned nine double plays in the College World Series, including two in the finals. The Gators were 1 for their first 16 with runners in scoring position until an RBI single in the eighth against reliever John Taylor, appearing in his 50th game this season for USC.
Price and Taylor combined to escape two bases-loaded, no-out jams without allowing a run in consecutive wins — the 13-inning victory against Virginia and the 11-inning win against Florida.
'We're just glad we played a nine-inning game today,' Roth said.
Roth, Price and Wingo were among many of the key players back from last year's team. The Gamecocks continually credited the players' attitudes with allowing the team to overcome a variety of injuries, including one that sidelined center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for two months until the team arrived here.
USC continued to typify the small-ball era of college baseball. They had no home runs in the CWS until light-hitting shortstop Peter Mooney laced a solo shot over the right-field wall to start the sixth inning.
'We never thought we were an awesome team,' Tanner said. 'We just thought we were good enough to win at times.'
South Carolina had no men's national championships in any sport before 2010. Now it has two — both of them in baseball.
'Everything about it was perfect,' Walker said. 'Maybe we can do it again next year.'
South Carolina 5, Texas A&M 4
Scott Wingo’s bases-loaded single off the right-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning drove home the winning run as South Carolina won its CWS opener.
South Carolina 7, Virginia 1
The Gamecocks exploded for six runs over the first four innings to beat the tournament’s No. 1 seed and put themselves one victory from a return trip to the finals.
South Carolina 3, Virginia 2 (13 innings)
Closer Matt Price grinded out the final 52/3 innings (throwing 95 pitches) to earn a dramatic victory.
Adam Matthews scored in the 13th inning after a throwing error.
South Carolina 2, Florida 1 (11 innings)
First baseman Christian Walker, despite a broken left wrist, scored the go-ahead run on two Florida throwing errors in the top of the 11th inning.
South Carolina 5, Florida 2
Michael Roth threw 72/3 masterful innings and Matt Price secured the Gamecocks’ second straight College World Series national championship with his NCAA-leading 20th save.
On three days’ rest, ace Michael Roth gave up two runs on five hits in 7 2/3 innings against a good offensive lineup, throwing 127 pitches. He was on the mound for both of USC’s title-clinching games.
South Carolina forced opponents into nine double plays in the College World Series. The Gators rolled into one in each game of the finals, including an important one Tuesday to end the fifth inning.
Down 3-1, Florida had two on and none out against Roth in the sixth. But the left-hander dug deep for a strikeout, a grounder to third and a grounder to second.
Celebrate the school’s second men’s national championship in more than 100 years of playing sports.