South Carolina's Scott Wingo, left, celebrates with teammates after knocking in the winning run against Texas A&M in the ninth inning of an NCAA College World Series baseball game in Omaha, Neb., Sunday, June 19, 2011. South Carolina beat Texas A&M 5-4.
OMAHA, Neb. -- South Carolina and drama just seem to go together in the College World Series.
Oh, and winning.
The Gamecocks just keep doing it, and doing it with flair. 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 defeated Texas A&M, 5-4, in the teams' CWS opener in front of 23,395 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
"That's just the way we are," said USC starting pitcher Michael Roth, who dug deep to go 7 1/3 innings after giving up four unearned runs in the first. "That's just the group we have. We like to play close games.
"I think we play close games because we're comfortable with that."
The fourth-seeded Gamecocks (51-14) advance to play No. 1 seed Virginia (55-10) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
What's new? Wingo trotted in with the run that won a national title last year at Rosenblatt Stadium. He went 4 for 4 and was hit by a pitch Sunday, ending the first round of games at the new stadium with a bullet -- off the right-field wall.
"We couldn't get him out," Aggies coach Rob Childress said.
Robert Beary doubled to start the inning. Jackie Bradley Jr., playing for the first time since April 23 because of a wrist
injury, singled to move Beary to third. Evan Marzilli walked on five pitches, setting the stage for Wingo, who registered his fourth walk-off hit of a special senior season.
"I think I definitely want to be in that situation," Wingo said. "I knew I needed to come up big there."
This is new: South Carolina won an opener in the event. The Gamecocks had dropped their past seven CWS openers, going back to 1977. Heck, they hadn't even scored a run in one from 1982 until last season.
"It's a very unusual feeling for me to be in Omaha and win the first game," said Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner, previously 0-4 in his CWS openers with the Gamecocks.
South Carolina has now won 12 consecutive NCAA tournament games and seven straight in the College World Series.
The game got off to a rather rough start for both teams. A Christian Walker fielding error led to the four unearned runs crossing the plate against Roth in the first. Aggies No. 7 hitter Brandon Wood's two-out, three-run triple down the right-field line quickly shifted the momentum in A&M's favor.
But Aggies starter Ross Stripling was just as shaky. The Gamecocks loaded the bases with no outs. They eventually tied the game after Stripling balked in a run, the second baseman threw wildly over the first baseman's head on a routine grounder and Peter Mooney singled in shallow right field.
That's when Roth, Stripling and the teams' defenses settled down -- and a whole bunch of zeroes appeared on the scoreboard.
Roth gave up no earned runs to lower his nation-leading ERA from 1.02 to 0.97. Roth walked a season-high five batters, but he struck out eight, one off his season high. He threw 122 pitches, two off his season high.
He left in the eighth inning with the game tied at four.
"Roth did what he does for us," Tanner said, "he gave us a chance to win."
USC reliever John Taylor, making his 46th appearance in his team's 65 games, was dominant. The right-hander needed just six pitches to get three outs, before handing the ball to Matt Price in the top of the ninth. Price struck out a batter and got an easy ground ball, sending a tie game to the bottom of the ninth.
That part the Gamecocks know well. They plated six runs in the final two innings of last weekend's super regional-clinching game against Connecticut. And they won game after game here last summer in the same fashion as Sunday night's victory.
Even the final game at Rosenblatt required a late rally and an 11th-inning hit by Whit Merrifield, scoring Wingo.
"It did feel a little familiar," Tanner said.
Now something unfamiliar: The winners' bracket.
"You don't want to get down there in the losers' bracket," Bradley said. "You've got to really struggle down there to get back and keep winning, with pitching and everything. This is good. This is what we wanted."