After making history Thursday, South Carolina tries to make the CWS championship series tonight
OMAHA, Neb. — Jack Barry ranked among the most accomplished baseball men of his time. He played in the major leagues from 1908-1919.
He won world championships in 1910, 1911 and 1913 with the Philadelphia Athletics, whose manager, Connie Mack, signed Barry out of Holy Cross as a 21-year-old shortstop to be part of his famous $100,000 Infield, considered one of the greatest ever.
He joined the Boston Red Sox in 1915 and would have been on the later-famous 1918 World Series, Boston’s last until 2004. But he missed the missed the season while serving with the U.S. Navy in World War I.
So perhaps lower on the lifetime highlights of John Joseph Barry is the fact that he won two games in one day at the 1952 College World Series, when he coached Holy Cross. He held that job from 1921 until his death in April 1961, and his .806 career winning percentage is the highest in the history of college baseball.
Barry’s name bears mentioning because he is the last coach to lead a team to two wins in one day in the College World Series, before South Carolina and Ray Tanner did it Thursday. The Gamecocks beat Kent State 4-1 and Arkansas 2-0 to set up a rematch with the Razorbacks, who beat USC on Monday. The teams play tonight at 9 on ESPN.
The winner advances to the best-of-three championship series, which begins Sunday at 8 p.m., against Arizona, which is 3-0 in the World Series and 8-0 in the NCAA tournament. When USC won its second straight national title last season, it became the first team since Miami in 2001 to go through the NCAA tournament undefeated.
Holy Cross was actually the second team to win two games in a day at the World Series. Tennessee did it in 1951 and lost in the championship game. Before USC on Thursday, no team had even played two complete games in one day at the World Series since 1980.
USC tonight probably will start junior right-hander Colby Holmes, the school announced after the Arkansas win. Holmes will be the first USC pitcher to throw on three days of rest this season. Holmes threw 53 pitches against Arkansas on Monday and allowed four hits and two runs in 3 2/3 innings, while striking out two and walking two.
Arkansas will go with its ace tonight, junior righty D.J. Baxendale, who last started in the Razorbacks’ World Series opener on Saturday. Baxendale, a 10th-round pick this year, is 8-5 with a 3.07 earned-run average, 94 strikeouts and 24 walks. USC faced him once this year, in a game the Gamecocks won 10-7, as Baxendale allowed five hits and four runs in seven innings, while striking out seven and walking one.
Tonight is the sixth meeting this season between USC and Arkansas, and the third of this World Series. Both teams have impressive pitching numbers in the NCAA tournament. The Razorbacks’ ERA in the tournament is 1.80, including 1.33 in the World Series. The Gamecocks’ ERA in the tournament is 1.68, including 1.50 in the World Series.
Moreover, Arkansas’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a run in 23 2/3 innings and the Razorbacks have held six NCAA tournament opponents this year to two runs or fewer.
USC on Thursday became the first team to allow five hits or fewer in a two-game span at a single World Series since 1964. The Gamecocks, who have won six straight World Series elimination games, have allowed four runs or fewer in all eight of their NCAA tournament games.
The last team to reach the College World Series and complete its participation in the NCAA tournament without allowing more than four runs in any tournament game was Miami in 1982. The Hurricanes won the national title that year, went 8-0 in the tournament and out-scored their opponents 74-22.
USC doesn’t have the offensive power to pull off those kinds of blowouts, which is why the Gamecocks’ pitching must be especially sharp, as it has been.
But USC was able to get to Arkansas starter Randall Fant on Thursday night, in a game that started nine hours after USC’s first pitch against Kent State.
Fant entered the game having not allowed a run in 12 1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a run in any of his previous three starts. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings Thursday and gave up two runs on four hits. Tanner expects Baxendale to pose a bigger challenge.
“I think he’s fastball’s got a little more life now than maybe earlier in the season,” Tanner said. “He can locate. If you show a little bit of weakness up there as a hitter or a tendency, he’s going to exploit it. He’s going to probably be there in the fifth or sixth inning regardless of what’s going on. That’s how good he is. And he’ll go deeper if you don’t have a good approach against him. He’s certainly one of the better pitchers not only in the SEC, but in the country.”
If USC wins tonight to pull of the improbable feat of winning three games in two days, it almost certainly will start sophomore righty Forrest Koumas in Sunday’s first championship game. He hasn’t pitched since May 25 and hasn’t started since May 18, but he would be USC’s only available starter. He has battled a stress fracture in his elbow this season, but is cleared to play.
Koumas started the opener of last year’s championship series against Florida and allowed three hits and a run in 5 2/3 innings while striking out four and walking one.
Freshman lefty Jordan Montgomery would’ve been available for Sunday, on three days of rest, if he started as scheduled on Wednesday night against Kent State. But rain changed those plans and moved the game to Thursday, when Montgomery started against Arkansas after Roth started against Kent State.
They combined for five hits, one run, two walks and 14 strikeouts in 17 innings, while facing a combined two batters over the minimum, to help USC do something that hadn’t been accomplished in 60 years.
— The Gamecocks have allowed four runs or fewer in 18 consecutive World Series games dating to 2004.
— USC centerfielder Evan Marzilli is now hitting .364 in the NCAA tournament, compared to .279 before it. Second baseman Chase Vergason is hitting .375 in the tournament, with seven runs batted in. Before the tournament, he was hitting .232 with five RBI.
— Matt Price closed the Arkansas game with a hitless, scoreless inning. He now has a 0.46 career ERA in the NCAA tournament, with 51 strikeouts and 24 hits allowed in 39 innings. Price on Thursday became the all-time leader in games finished at the World Series, with 10. Price has allowed one run in 21 2/3 career innings in Omaha, for a 0.42 ERA that ranks fifth all-time along players with at least 20 innings pitched. He has 31 strikeouts at the World Series and currently holds a 15 2/3-inning scoreless streak.