June 2010 Archives
With the crowd at historic Rosenblatt Stadium on its feet for the final time, Whit Merrifield slapped a single to right field in extra innings to deliver South Carolina its first national title.
"It was very hairy there for a while," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "It really was who we were this year."
Who exactly were these Gamecocks?
"We've been a really, really special baseball team that approached it the right way and found a way to win and never gave in, never gave up," said Tanner.
A resilient group, South Carolina personified the word team in the postseason. It seemed as if a new hero popped up each game. Jackie Bradley, Jr. with his game-tying single against Oklahoma. Brady Thomas with his game-winner. Blake Cooper's gutsy performances. Michael Roth's incredible outing. Matt Price's adrenaline-fueled dominance. The list could go on and on.
What will you take away from watching South Carolina's storybook run? Who were your heroes and what were your favorite moments?
Pitching Staff Came to Play
South Carolina's arms were stellar in Omaha, striking out 57 batters and walking just 12 while holding opponents to a .191 batting average. All seven opponents in the CWS were held to four runs or less. The Gamecocks' 2.16 ERA is the lowest by a CWS champion since Texas posted a 1.40 ERA in 2005 and the second-lowest by a CWS winner since 1996.
The South Carolina bullpen was 3-0 in Omaha with a 1.33 ERA, striking out 21 batters and walking one over 20.1 innings in the CWS.
Bradley Most Outstanding Player
Bradley was named the tournament's most outstanding player, batting .345 in seven games and driving in nine runs. He hit two homers and had an on-base percentage of .441.
"It's an amazing feeling. God has really blessed me and my teammates have been backing me up all year," he said. "I was struggling in the beginning with injuries and they kept telling me to keep battling through. It's like a family for me. I thank them for everything."
Other Gamecocks named to the All-Tournament team included Christian Walker (First Base), Evan Marzilli (Outfield) and Brady Thomas (Designated Hitter).
South Carolina is the first team to play four one-run games in the College World Series, going 3-1 in those games. The Gamecocks were involved in every one-run game in Omaha this year. Tuesday's win marked just the third time this season the Gamecocks had won when scoring two runs or less.
Team Celebration at Carolina Stadium Wednesday
A celebration that will be open to the public and free of charge is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Carolina Stadium to honor the 2010 National Champion South Carolina baseball team. Gates to Carolina Stadium will open at 4 p.m., with the event slated to begin at 4:45 p.m.
Fans will have the opportunity to watch a replay of Tuesday night's game on the video board at Carolina Stadium, the entire Gamecock team will be announced upon its arrival and an autograph session will conclude the event. Concessions will also be open with a limited variety of food and beverages.
UCLA's starter tonight will be left-hander Rob Rasmussen. He has an 11-3 record with a 2.87 ERA in 103.1 innings of work. He has struck out 123 batters and opponents are batting .213 against him this season. In his last start in the CWS against TCU on Friday, he worked 4.1 innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs. He struck out six and walked three.
To say that pitching has been a key for the Gamecocks would be an understatement. As a staff, South Carolina has a 2.41 ERA in six games with 50 strikeouts and nine walks. Opponents are hitting a meager .186 against Gamecock pitching. Carolina has held all six opponents in Omaha to four runs or less.
The Gamecocks are now 30-4 when holding an opponent to three runs or less, including each of its last four opponents in Omaha.
After last night's win, the Gamecocks improved to 26-2 this season when scoring in the first inning and 36-6 when scoring first. The seven runs versus the Bruins last night was Carolina's second-highest output in the 2010 CWS. The Gamecocks have scored in the first inning in each of their last three CWS games.
All nine starters (and all 10 players who had a plate appearance) for South Carolina had a hit in last night's win.
Five of South Carolina's seven runs were scored with two outs. South Carolina has 14 two-out RBIs in the CWS. TCU leads all teams with 16 - UCLA has five.
Some final notes on Blake Cooper...last night marked the 11th time in 20 starts this season that Cooper has allowed two runs or less. His 20 starts are the most by any pitcher in the country. His 10 strikeouts tied the CWS Finals record. It was the third time this season and second time in the NCAA Tournament Cooper struck out 10 or more batters. In five NCAA Tournament starts this season, Cooper has a 3-1 record with a 2.18 ERA, striking out 38 in 33 innings. In Omaha, he is 1-1 with a 2.41 ERA, allowing 13 hits over 18.2 innings.
South Carolina Starting Lineup
LF Evan Marzilli
RF Whit Merrifield
CF Jackie Bradley, Jr.
1B Christian Walker
3B Adrian Morales
DH Adam Matthews
C Kyle Enders
SS Bobby Haney
2B Scott Wingo
UCLA Starting Lineup
SS Niko Gallego
CF Beau Amaral
DH Blair Dunlap
1B Dean Espy
2B Cody Regis
RF Brett Krill
LF Chris Giovinazzo
3B Trevor Brown
C Steve Rodriguez
"They're not booing. They're Coop-in."
Every athlete wants to end his career on a high note.
Few have ended with a flourish like Blake Cooper did.
On the biggest stage for a college baseball pitcher, the senior right-hander dominated hitters in a ten-strikeout effort in Game 1 of the College World Series to give South Carolina a 7-1 win against UCLA.
"This guy gave us an outstanding performance," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "He just made pitch after pitch after pitch."
Working on three days rest, Cooper lacked the "giddy-up" on his fastball and relied on sliders and curveballs to limit the Bruins to three hits over eight-plus innings of work.
"I really wanted to rely on the sink and being able to throw curveballs and sliders for strikes," said Cooper. "I was able to do that early in the count, get some ground balls and get some big strikeouts when I needed them."
Cooper threw 136 pitches and faced the minimum in the second, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. After Steve Rodriguez' single in the fifth inning (the Bruins' first hit of the night), Cooper retired eleven straight batters.
"He mixed it up well tonight and kept us off balance," said UCLA head coach John Savage. "He pounded the strike zone and threw his change and breaking ball for strikes."
Tanner said he knew the right-hander would at least put the Gamecocks in position to win the opening game of the championship series.
"I felt comfortable he was going to get us to the middle of that game regardless of what kind of stuff he had," he said.
To Tanner, Cooper was "extra-special" tonight.
"Coop maxes out his ability. If you play a little defense behind him, he always keeps you there," he said. "He ran a couple balls, fastballs that didn't have a lot of velocity that just ran in and out of that zone. He was just really good."
In a scenario Cooper has seen many times this season, the starter for the opponent was another highly regarded pitcher. UCLA starter Gerrit Cole, a former first-round draft pick, struck out 13 batters last Monday in his first start in the College World Series.
But that's been the story all year for Cooper. He's made it a habit of out-dueling the other team's top guy. Drew Pomeranz from Ole Miss. Drew Smyly from Arkansas. And now Cole from UCLA. Does that give him extra motivation?
"I really don't think so. I just want to do what I've been doing all year and go out and give my team a chance to win," he said.
Ironically, it almost wasn't the senior righty standing on the hill at the start of the game. Tanner met with Cooper in the morning and asked if he wanted to push his start back to Tuesday for an extra day of rest.
"He just looked at me for a few minutes and said, 'I'll be as good today as I'll be tomorrow,'" said Tanner. "I said, 'It's another day's rest." And he said, 'It ain't going to matter to me.'"
At the end of last season, Cooper committed to his fitness to make a difference in his senior season. Working with strength coach Billy Anderson, Cooper applied himself in the weight room.
"Last year, I knew I was a little bit overweight and I knew I had to do something about it to have a chance to have a year like I did this year," said Cooper. "I feel like it's been a great key to my success this year and being to last as long as I did and maintain my velocity and composure on the mound."
In his final start as a Gamecock, Cooper earned career win No. 34 - good for 4th on South Carolina's all-time list and tying him with Earl Bass and Greg Ward.
"I finally got my last start tonight and it was a big one for me," he said.
UCLA starter Gerrit Cole has made one appearance in the CWS, starting last Monday against TCU. Cole earned the win, pitching eight innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out 13 batters in a 122-pitch effort. For the season, Cole is 11-3 with a 3.26 ERA. He's struck out 151 batters in 116 innings and opponents are hitting .194 against him this season.
South Carolina's bullpen has been effective in the CWS, earning a 2-0 record in 13.1 innings of work. They have struck out 17 batters and walked none.
South Carolina is making its fourth appearance in the finals of the CWS (0-3 record). This will be the first time the Gamecocks participate in a best-of-three format for the national championship.
The Gamecocks are getting solid production from the No. 3 and No. 4 spots of the lineup. Outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. is 8-for-19 (.421) in Omaha with nine RBIs and nine runs. He leads all 2010 CWS participants in RBIs and runs. First baseman Christian Walker is 8-for-20 (.400) with two home runs and five RBIs.
South Carolina Starting Lineup
LF Evan Marzilli (.378, 3 HR, 11 RBI)
RF Whit Merrifield (.325, 13 HR, 40 RBI)
CF Jackie Bradley, Jr (.375, 13 HR, 60 RBI)
1B Christian Walker (.323, 9 HR, 51 RBI)
DH Brady Thomas (.326, 8 HR, 29 RBI)
3B Adrian Morales (.281, 9 HR, 56 RBI)
C Kyle Enders (.282, 3 HR, 32 RBI)
SS Bobby Haney (.254, 3 HR, 21 RBI)
2B Scott Wingo (.250, 9 HR, 31 RBI)
UCLA Starting Lineup
CF Beau Amaral (.360, 4 HR, 31 RBI)
SS Niko Gallego (.274, 3 HR, 32 RBI)
2B Cody Regis (.322, 9 HR, 47 RBI)
DH Blair Dunlap (.319, 6 HR, 28 RBI)
LF Jeff Gelalich (.320, 2 HR, 13 RBI)
3B Dean Espy (.357, 9 HR, 52 RBI)
1B Justin Uribe (.315, 3 HR, 27 RBI)
RF Chris Giovinazzo (.275, 3 HR, 16 RBI)
C Steve Rodriguez (.249, 8 HR, 37 RBI)
First pitch of Game 1 for the National Championship is set for 7:30 PM, so gates to Fluor Field will open at 7 PM.
A map is also below with directions to the hospitality tent. There is a garnet arrow on the map which shows the location of the tent.
|Opp. Batting Average||.217||.228|
|Team Batting Average||.308||.301|
Move past the geographical differences of these two programs and you'll see two similar teams built on pitching, defense and timely hitting.
"I think there are some similarities, just looking at the numbers," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "You know, they've got the power arms. We've got some pretty good arms. We pitch a little bit and that's one of the reasons we're still playing."
"Tremendous pitching," said UCLA head coach John Savage. "Their pitching reminds us a little bit of ourselves."
The teams are remarkably even on that stat sheet. UCLA's team ERA is 3.01 to South Carolina's 3.53. The Bruins have struck out 687 batters while the Gamecocks have struck out 608. Opponents are hitting .217 against UCLA this season and teams are hitting .228 against South Carolina. The Gamecocks field the ball just a little better (.976 to .970).
It's difficult to even give any team the edge in mental toughness. While the Gamecocks were one strike away from the end of the season on Thursday against Oklahoma, UCLA faced a similar situation in Game 2 of its Super Regional against Cal State Fullerton. Down to their final out in the ninth inning, the Bruins rallied to force a decisive Game 3. It's been that type of composure that has helped each club reach the final series of the season.
"I never sensed any quit. I didn't sense any panic," said Savage. "The guys just kept on battling."
"At some point, you have to understand there is going to be a tremendous amount of adversity," said Tanner. "They've been through a lot and we've been through a lot. It's a credit to both teams and the players that have been able to survive it and move on."
At Sunday's press conference with the two final teams, both sets of players expressed respect and admiration for each other.
"They're an extremely resilient team," said Bruin pitcher Gerrit Cole. "They have quite a few tremendous players. A lot of big-game players. They're obviously a bunch of hard workers, a bunch of non-quitters."
"They have some arms, I'll tell you that. They can really pitch," said Gamecock outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. "But they're offensive. They've been putting it together this whole tournament and getting a lot of timely hits."
Tanner remains undecided on his starter for Game 1 of the title series. It's clearly too soon to see Sam Dyson or Michael Roth start. A Monday start for Blake Cooper would only give him three days of rest after already pitching on three days rest last week. It's possible Tanner could go with Jay Brown or Tyler Webb on Monday.
Asking Dyson to start any of the championship games could be a tall order as the right-hander has thrown nearly 230 pitches in high temperatures in the span of five days. It's more likely to see him as an option out of the bullpen.
UCLA plans to start Cole on Monday. In his last start against TCU on Monday, Cole pitched eight innings, striking out 13 batters and allowing five hits and three earned runs.
"I'm an emotional, aggressive pitcher. I wear my heart on my sleeve," said Cole. "I like to pound the strike zone, attack with the fastball. Pretty basic three-pitch mix kind of guy."
"He's my favorite player to watch"
There's not many connections between the two squads that will face off for the national title this week. Gamecock outfielder Whit Merrifield, UCLA shortstop Niko Gallego and second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla all know each other from playing in the Cape Cod League last summer. Merrifield and Rahmatulla were roommates while playing for the Chatham Anglers. The Bruin second baseman has been unable to play in the CWS after breaking his wrist in the Super Regional.
"I feel awful that [Rahmatulla] can't play. We were talking [in the summer] about how cool it would be if we both ended up in Omaha and playing each other. And here it is," said Merrifield.
Bradley even has a fan on UCLA's roster.
"I just met Jackie," said Gallego. "I told him over there in the corner that he's my favorite player to watch."
Best-of-Three Format Better for Baseball
Although this is South Carolina's fourth trip to the finals of the College World Series, it will be their first shot at playing in the best-of-three format. The Gamecocks reached the finals twice in the 1970s, losing to Texas and Arizona State. In 2002, South Carolina came out of the losers bracket and had to play Texas hours after beating Clemson to advance to to the title game.
"We had finished on an early evening on Friday and we had a noon game on Saturday set up for television," said Tanner. "We were energetic, but it was a short turnaround."
Tanners said the current format fits better with what players and coaches prepare for all season.
"You get a variety of pitchers out there in the games, whether it's a two-game or three-game set," he said. "We're all used to the series mentality. I think it's the right way to do it."
Both Clubs Seeking First National Title
The final chapter at Rosenblatt Stadium will see a first-time national champion in college baseball.
"It really is an honor to be playing in it. At the beginning of the fall, we set out to get here, but we didn't set out to just get here," said Merrifield. "We wanted to do something that our university has never had and that's a national championship."
At UCLA, the school with the most NCAA team championships, there's an additional motivation to bring back a title.
"Every day we go in our Hall of Fame room and we go in the weight room and you see all the national championships and baseball doesn't have anything underneath it," he said. "So I guess it's a gut check every time you see it. And knowing that you could do something special and put it up there."
The South Carolina Athletics Ticket Office will sell a limited amount of available tickets to Gamecock Club members in the lobby of the Embassy Suites in Old Market from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. on game days (must present membership card to purchase).
For fans in Omaha, the Gamecock Club and the Carolina Alumni Association will host a pre-game tent beside the pavilion near the Fan Fest two hours before game time on Monday and Tuesday.
"Nobody likes to hear it, because it's dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same - pitching." - Earl Weaver
You probably wouldn't find Ray Tanner's Gamecocks sitting at the winner's post-game press conference had it not been for the gutsy and impressive performances of his pitching staff this week.
Sam Dyson keeps the Gamecocks alive on Tuesday, working seven innings and throwing 112 pitches in 100-degree temperatures to stifle the tournament's top seed. His line: 7 1/3 innings, eight hits, four runs and three strikeouts.
Blake Cooper pitches against Oklahoma on Thursday, throwing 98 pitches against a team who had faced him just three days earlier. His line: 5 2/3 innings, four hits, one run, six strikeouts.
Michael Roth turning in an incredible complete-game performance against in-state rival Clemson. His line: nine innings, three hits, one run, four strikeouts.
Dyson taking the hill on three days' rest to close out the Tigers and propel the Gamecocks to the finals. His line: 6 2/3 innings, five hits, two earned runs, five strikeouts.
And what more can you say about Matt Price's jaw-dropping numbers this week: 7 innings, 129 pitches, 12 strikeouts, one run, three hits.
Choose your adjective. Heroic. Herculean. Incredible.
Tanner credits pitching coach Mark Calvi for preparing his arms to be ready when called upon and his pitchers for executing the game plan.
"Coach Calvi has worked extremely hard. He's a tireless worker on scouting reports," he said. "If they can make some pitches, then we can stay in some games. We've got some talented pitchers."
Of the last four teams standing in Omaha, the Gamecocks have allowed the fewest number of runs (14 allowed in five games). UCLA has allowed 15 runs in four games. Clemson allowed 16 runs in four games and TCU allowed 19 runs in five games.
As a pitching staff, the Gamecocks have a 2.68 ERA in five games with 40 strikeouts and eight walks. South Carolina's opponents are hitting .202 against Gamecock pitching and have just 34 hits in 168 at-bats. All five opponents have been held to five runs or less.
The Gamecock bullpen is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA, striking out 17 batters without a walk over 13.1 innings in the College World Series.
In a repeat of the program's appearance in the 2002 College World Series, the Gamecocks battled their way through the losers bracket and defeated Clemson twice to advance to the national championship game. Under Tanner, the Gamecocks are now 12-3 when facing elimination in Omaha.
In the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Gamecocks have proven their resilience, coming from behind in all three games in the Columbia Regional and once in the Myrtle Beach Super Regional. South Carolina also came from behind to defeat Oklahoma in an elimination game on Thursday.
"A couple days ago, we were down to our last strike, planning a trip back home and now we have an opportunity to play for a national championship," said Tanner. "But it's a never-say-die team. We've battled. That's who we've been and we keep competing."
"We've done things the hard way all year," said Whit Merrifield. "We got here, we lost the first game. We said, you know, we've been doing things the hard way all year, why not keep doing it?"
Monday Starter TBD
Shortly after clinching a berth in the title series, Tanner was still unsure of who his starter would be on Monday against UCLA.
"Coach Calvi and I have a routine going that we get together at 1:30 in the morning," he said. "Everybody's asleep and we sit there for a little while and chat it up and visit. So that's what we'll do again tonight and try to figure it out a little bit."
Light Crowd on Saturday Night
If you were in the stands at Rosenblatt Stadium or watched the game on television Saturday night, you may have noticed a few empty seats. Saturday's earlier game also had several empty sections. It's been hard to narrow down an exact reason, but it may have been due to a couple of circumstances. The heat index was in the 100s on Saturday, so high temperatures may have kept a few local citizens away from the ballpark. In addition, the Saturday games are not always a guaranteed part of the tournament, so many Omaha residents don't plan for them. In fact, this year was the first time since 1988 that both sides of the bracket had to play a second elimination game.
Limited Tickets Available for Championship Series
A limited number of tickets for the Championship Series will be sold in the lobby of the Embassy Suites at Old Market in Omaha from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on game days to Gamecock Club members only (must present membership card to purchase).
Game 5 Notes
-The last team to win the national championship after losing their opening game was Oregon State in 2006.
-The Gamecocks are now 29-4 when holding an opponent to three runs or less.
-Jackie Bradley, Jr extended his hit streak to 21 games and is 8-for-19 (.421) with nine RBIs and nine runs in the CWS, the most RBIs and runs for any player in this series.
-Christian Walker is batting 8-for-20 (.400) in the CWS with two homers and five RBIs.
-Whit Merrifield was a hit shy of hitting for the cycle against Clemson tonight, with a single, double and triple in his first three plate appearances. The last player to hit for the cycle in the CWS was Minnesota's Jerry Kindall in 1956.
Pitching for the second time at the College World Series, Sam Dyson will take the hill for the Gamecocks. On Tuesday, Dyson pitched 7 1/3 innings against the Arizona State Sun Devils, allowing eight hits, four earned runs. He struck out three batters and walked two while throwing 120 pitches.
Clemson's starter will be junior left-hander Casey Harman, who picked up the win against Arizona State in the Tigers' opening game of the College World Series. Harman pitched six inning, allowing three earned runs and seven hits. He struck out five batters and walked three.
Through four games in Omaha, the Gamecocks are hitting .281 (41-for-146) as a team. South Carolina stranded only four runners against Clemson on Friday night after leaving 29 on base this week.
South Carolina Lineup vs. Clemson (Saturday, June 26)
LF Evan Marzilli
RF Whit Merrifield
CF Jackie Bradley, Jr.
1B Christian Walker
3B Adrian Morales
DH Adam Matthews
C Kyle Enders
SS Bobby Haney
2B Scott Wingo
Used as a situational left-hander throughout the season, Roth was called on to start in an elimination game against archrival Clemson and threw a complete game three-hitter to help Carolina win 5-1 on Friday night at Rosenblatt Stadium.
"What can you say about Michael Roth?" said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "That was one of the most impressive performances I've ever had a man pitch for me."
Roth threw 109 pitches over nine innings, allowing one earned run and striking out four batters. Keeping Clemson's heavy left-handed hitting lineup off-balance all night, he got 17 ground-ball outs against the Tigers. Clemson's left-handed hitters were 1-for-22 against Roth.
To give Roth's performance some perspective, his season high for pitches thrown in an appearance before tonight was 38. His longest career outing: 4 1/3 innings. Before tonight, he had thrown 370 pitches all season. Only 14 of his 35 appearances in 2010 lasted more than an inning.
No one, not even Roth, expected the start to finish the way it did.
"I just went out there and tried to throw inning after inning. I told Coach I'd throw until my arm fell off," he said. "I really expected to go five and after that I just kept taking it one inning at a time."
Tanner thought Roth would put the Gamecocks in a good position, but after three or four innings. Not nine.
"My confidence level was that he'd get the game started for us and then we'd have to figure out what we were going to have to do," he said.
Clemson head coach Jack Leggett certainly wasn't expecting his hitters to struggle for nine against a relief pitcher.
"I didn't think when the game started that they would ride him that long, but they were having success and getting quick outs," he said.
Clemson's second baseman Mike Freeman said Roth's pitching kept the Tigers out of sync all night.
"It was definitely his night. We couldn't get anything going on offense," he said. "You have to give him a lot of credit for making his pitches when he needed to."
"It's tough against a sidearm lefty," said Roth. "They tried to make adjustments and I kept coming in on them. They just kept jamming themselves. I mainly threw fastballs in and sliders away."
College World Series Game 4 Notes
-In the 2010 College World Series, Roth has a 0.79 ERA in three appearances. Opponents are hitting just .075 against him (3-for-40).
-The last complete game pitched by a Gamecock in the CWS was in 2002 by Steve Bondurant against Clemson.
-The Gamecocks improve to 20-1 when holding an opponent to two runs or less.
-South Carolina is now 100-56 in NCAA Tournament play. The Gamecocks are 8-1 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
-Tonight's game took 2:22, the quickest CWS game since UNC defeated Clemson, 2-0, in 2006.
Clemson will counter with right-hander Dominic Leone. The freshman is 3-1 with a 4.53 ERA, making 21 appearances and nine starts. In 55 2/3 innings of work, he's allowed 28 earned runs and 65 hits. Leone has struck out 40 batters and opponents are hitting .289 against him. His last start was in Game 3 of the Clemson Super Regional against Alabama. Leone worked 5 2/3 innings against the Tide, allowing three hits and one run. He struck out three batters and walked one.
South Carolina's pitching staff has been effective in Omaha, allowing just 10 runs through 30 innings of work. That's the fewest number of runs allowed through three games at the CWS in the Tanner era - '02 (24 runs), '03 (31 runs), '04 (18 runs). Gamecock pitchers have struck out 28 batters, walked five and allowed 23 hits.
The Gamecocks got 10 hits off Sooner pitching in 12 innings last night, but saw their team average drop to .289. South Carolina has stranded 29 runners on base through three games at the CWS. Carolina has scored its lowest total number of runs through three games in Omaha under Tanner - '02 (19 runs), '03 (17 runs), '04 (30 runs).
In two games at the CWS, Clemson is hitting .303 (20-for-66) as a team. However, the Tigers have just one extra base hit in Omaha (Kyle Parker's triple against Oklahoma on Wednesday).
Last night's win improved South Carolina's record to 10-3 when facing elimination at the CWS under Tanner. The Gamecocks also won their 50th game of the season, the fifth time in program history the team has accomplished the feat.
A gutsy outing from senior Blake Cooper. A clutch single from Christian Walker. A lights-out three inning relief performance from Matt Price. Oklahoma's go-ahead homer in the 12th. Jackie Bradley, Jr's single on what would have been the final strike of the season. And finally Brady Thomas' first-pitch single to send Bradley sliding into home.
As a Gamecock fan, it was one of those times where I'll never forget where I was when that winning run touched home plate. I remarked to someone last night that I've been fortunate enough to be in the building for three of South Carolina's most memorable wins - the football win against Ole Miss, men's basketball's upset of No. 1 Kentucky and last night's dramatic walk-off.
Where were you when the Gamecocks scored the winning run last night? What was your reaction?
Here's some news links about last night's dramatic win:
-Gamecocks score 2 in 12th to stay alive, face rival Tigers today - Travis Haney, Charleston Post & Courier
This one was for Bayler.
On a night when one of South Carolina's smallest -- and yet biggest -- fans lost his battle with cancer, his team rallied like it never had before.
Wherever he was by late Thursday night, 7-year-old Bayler Teal liked the way this one turned out.
Down to their final swing of the season, with two outs in the 12th inning, South Carolina found a way. And it will play on in the College World Series after a 3-2 victory at sold-out Rosenblatt Stadium that instantly goes into the record books as one of the program's best victories of all time.
-Brady Thomas delivers game-winner for USC vs. OU - Brad Senkiw, Anderson Independent Mail
Brady Thomas came to the plate in the 12th inning looking to atone for an embarrassing pop-up bunt in the 10th inning against Oklahoma.
He simply created a memory that will last a lifetime -- many lifetimes.
-Gamecocks stay alive, advance to face Tigers - Neil White, The State
Down to his last strike, Jackie Bradley breathed life back into South Carolina's baseball season with a two-out, game-tying RBI single in the 12th inning against Oklahoma.
Moments later, the fleet center fielder was rounding third and headed for home on Brady Thomas' single up the middle to give the Gamecocks a thrilling 3-2 win over the Sooners Thursday night in a College World Series elimination game at Rosenblatt Stadium.
"It was an incredible win," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "Just never-give-up day."
-Dramatic 12th-inning rally keeps Gamecocks alive - Aaron Fitt, Baseball America
In the end, it didn't matter that South Carolina was 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position heading into the 12th inning. It didn't matter that the Gamecocks failed to get bunts down in key spots in the 11th and 12th. It didn't matter that Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brady Thomas were a combined 0-for-10 heading into that 12th inning.
"We struggled early on, but we were just able to flush it," Thomas said.
-Gamecocks save best for last - Kendall Rogers, Yahoo! Sports
Deep down, everyone's heart in the State of South Carolina sank when Oklahoma catcher Tyler Ogle blasted a home run in the top of the 12th inning against South Carolina to give the Sooners a 2-1 advantage in an elimination game.
Oklahoma appeared headed for the bracket final with a spot in the College World Series championship series on the line. Palmetto State fans with hopes of seeing the Gamecocks square off with heated rival Clemson this weekend saw that dream slipping away.
Brady Thomas' walk-off single in the 12th inning against Oklahoma was Sportscenter's No. 6 play of the day last night.
Start with a gutsy performance from senior Blake Cooper pitching on just three days of rest. The right-hander battled his way through five innings, allowing four hits and striking out six. Cooper allowed just one run to keep South Carolina's struggling offense in striking distance.
"Coop gave us a heck of a start. He's pitched for us all year and never missed a turn. The reason he was out there is he said he could go," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner.
Fast-forward to the ninth inning when closer Matt Price entered and put on one of his best performances of the season. Needing to keep the Sooners scoreless to give the Gamecocks a chance to win, Price worked out of a jam with two runners on and just one out. Price got first baseman Cameron Seitzer to ground into an inning-ending double play to preserve the score. The freshman followed that inning up with two more perfect innings, striking out the side in the 11th. His final line: 3 innings, 0 hits, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts.
"Price was spectacular," said Tanner. "He was really, really good."
But things still wouldn't come easy for the Gamecocks. Reliever Ethan Carter gave up a solo home run to Sooner catcher Tyler Ogle to put Oklahoma ahead 2-1 in the top of the 12th. Tyler Webb came on to limit the damage and Carolina was facing a deficit with its season on the line.
Robert Beary singled to start the inning and would steal second after Evan Marzilli struck out. Whit Merrifield popped out in foul territory and the Gamecocks were down to their last out. Sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr came to the plate after an 0-for-5 night with Gamecock fans praying for a miracle.
Bradley took Sooner closer Ryan Duke down to the final strike before singling just beyond the reach of Seitzer, scoring Beary from second base.
"I was fortunate to get the big hit in a game, just fighting and battling," said Bradley. "I knew I was going to get my chance and I made it count."
The Gamecocks pushed for the win as pinch-hitter Jeffery Jones drew a two-out walk to bring up designated hitter Brady Thomas. Like Bradley, the senior was also 0-for-5 on the evening, but was able to put that behind him as he singled up the middle to give the Gamecocks the win.
"I was just looking for a strike to put somewhere because I knew a base hit would score a run," said Thomas. "I got a fastball and was fortunate to put a good swing on it."
"A Great College Baseball Game"
Whether you're a Gamecock, a Sooner or neither, Thursday night's game between the two schools certainly was a classic.
"That's how it should be. I'm proud of both teams. If you're going to play your last baseball game and you're going to lose, you want to do something you're going to be proud of," said Oklahoma head coach Sunny Golloway. "And I couldn't be more proud of the way our players played."
Tanner said it was a game where both teams deserved to win.
"It was just a great game by both teams fighting hard," he said. "You hate to have anybody lose tonight, really."
Tanner Undecided on Friday Starter
With his No. 1 and No. 2 starters too taxed to start Friday against Clemson, Tanner was undecided on Thursday about his next starter.
"I'm not being evasive, but I don't really have an idea," he said. "Neff is a candidate. Maybe Michael Roth. I don't know. We'll go back and regroup and try to see who our freshest guys are. We'll go back and make a decision."
Clemson Looms for Carolina
In a repeat of 2002, the Gamecocks will have to defeat in-state rival Clemson twice over the next two days to stay alive in the College World Series and advance to the championship series. But Bradley downplayed the significance of the opponent.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "Of course we know who we're playing, big rivalry and all, but it's just playing another baseball game. Just gotta win or go home."
The Tigers and Gamecocks play Friday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Oklahoma will counter with Zach Neal on the mound tonight. In 17 starts this season, Neal is 8-3 with a 4.65 ERA. He has struck out 88 batters in 98.2 innings. Opponents are batting .280 against him. Neal's last start was in Game 2 of the Charlottesville Super Regional against Virginia. He went three innings, allowing five hits and four earned runs and struck out two batters.
South Carolina faces elimination tonight for the second time this week as a loss to the Sooners would end the Gamecocks' stay in Omaha. Under head coach Ray Tanner, the Gamecocks are 9-3 when facing elimination at the College World Series. Carolina won four straight in 2002 after losing the series opener.
A win tonight would give South Carolina its 50th win of the season. It would be just the fifth time in program history the Gamecocks have won 50 or more games. Carolina won 53 games in 2004, 57 games in 2002, 56 in 2000 and 51 in 1975.
In two games at the College World Series, the Gamecocks are hitting .329 as a team (23-for-70) with 14 runs and five HR. Carolina has drawn nine walks and struck out 14 times. The Gamecocks have left 17 men on base in two games.
In two games at the College World Series, the Sooner are hitting .234 as a team (15-for-64) with eight runs and four HR. Oklahoma has drawn six walks and struck out 17 times. The Sooners have left 15 men on base this week.
"How about them Gamecocks?" Smoak said. "I've watched a little bit. I looked up and saw it was 10-0 [against Arizona State]. That's all I saw."
Smoak, Carolina's all-time leader in home runs, RBIs, walks and total bases, still makes sure he talks to some of his old teammates.
"I talk to [pitcher] Jay Brown a lot," Smoak said. "He came in as a junior-college guy my sophomore year. [Second baseman Scott] Wingo texted me the other day, and I've been texting him back and forth. He just said he was excited to be there and stuff like that."
Smoak has played in 56 games for the Texas Rangers this season, batting .223 with eight HR and 32 RBI.
Chris Cox, former sports editor of The Daily Gamecock, wrote the article for MLB.com.
Thank you to all the Gamecock fans who came to the tailgate tent before the games on Sunday and Tuesday - hope you're still here to cheer on the Gamecocks against the Sooners on Thursday!
But college baseball's best teams will still take the "Road to Omaha" each season as the College World Series will remain in Omaha and move to brand-new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The NCAA and the city have agreed to host the CWS in Omaha until 2035.
A $128 million stadium, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha will seat 24,000 fans with the ability to expand to 35,000. Located downtown across the street from the Qwest Center Omaha, the stadium will also be the home for the Creighton University baseball team and the United Football League's Omaha Nighthawks.
The Omaha Royals, the triple-A team that currently plays in Rosenblatt Stadium, will also have a new home and move to a smaller 7,500-seat ballpark in nearby Sarpy County.
"He's relentless to the ball. He's got a good first step in his pass rush. He's built pretty strong," Panthers head coach John Fox said. "Even though he might be a little short in stature, he's pretty well put together and he's got extremely good explosion."
UPDATE: Per this article, Norwood signed a four-year, $2.24 million deal with a signing bonus of $458,400.
-Arizona State became the first No. 1 ranked team since seeding began at the College World Series in 1999 to be eliminated after two games. It was also the first time this season that the Sun Devils lost consecutive games all season.
-In yesterday's post-game press conference, South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner remarked that pitcher Blake Cooper could be available for Thursday's game after throwing just 64 pitches against Oklahoma on Sunday night.
-After throwing nearly 40 pitches against the Sun Devils, Tanner indicated that closer Matt Price would still be available if necessary on Thursday.
-Outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. continues to terrorize opposing pitching at the College World Series. The sophomore extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a lead-off single in the first inning against Arizona State. In Omaha, Bradley is 5-8 with 2 home runs, 6 RBI and 2 runs. He's also reached base after being hit by a pitch, walking and grounding into a fielder's choice.
-After yesterday's hit parade against the Sun Devils, every player in the Gamecocks starting lineup recorded a hit except for first baseman Christian Walker. The second inning saw Carolina record its most hits in a single inning in a game this year.
But the faithful would have to wait just an inning longer to see the South Carolina offense come to life at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Third baseman Adrian Morales and catcher Kyle Enders singled to lead off the second inning to put early pressure on Sun Devil starter Merrill Kelly. Shortstop Bobby Haney unsuccessfully attempted to bunt the runners over, bringing up second baseman Scott Wingo with one out.
Wingo showed bunt initially before lacing a line drive down the left field line for a two-run double to put the Gamecocks ahead 2-0.
"Wingo uncharacteristically hit a ball the other way that drove in a couple of runs," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "Kyle Enders did a great job scoring on that play. He's not the most fleet of foot and he got a great read on that ball."
Outfielders Evan Marzilli and Whit Merrifield quickly singled to put runners on first and second base and give sophomore Jackie Bradley, Jr the opportunity to continue to showcase his talents. Bradley hammered an 0-1 pitch to left center field and extend South Carolina's lead to 6-0.
"I just wanted to stay aggressive, especially in certain counts with baserunners on," said Bradley. "I was actually just looking to drive one and get a sac fly or something. He made a great pitch and I just happened to get a good swing on it. It was wind-assisted a little bit."
"Jackie is a bit humble, but that ball that he hit to left center...maybe the wind took it a few rows up, but he hit that ball hard," said Tanner.
Morales, who flied out on Sunday with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, felt like he redeemed himself when he dinged a ball off the left field foul pole to stretch the Gamecock lead to 8-0.
"I'm my biggest critic so I felt it the worst. I was down on myself all night and couldn't sleep," he said. "I wanted to bounce back and help the team win and I was able to do that today."
When the dust finally settled at the end of the second inning, the Gamecocks had scored the second-most runs in an inning in a game this year and recorded the most hits in an inning in a game. Morales became the first Gamecock since Steve Pearce to record two hits in the same inning in a College World Series game. Pearce had two singles against LSU in 2004 at the CWS.
"Eight runs, eight hits. We don't score runs like that very often," said Tanner. "We had some big at-bats that gave us an opportunity against a great club."
Arizona State head coach Tim Esmay said South Carolina's big inning dealt the Sun Devils an early mental blow.
"You can't have a start like we did against a quality team like South Carolina," said Arizona State head coach Tim Esmay. "They put us on our heels."
"It was stunning," said Sun Devils right fielder Kole Calhoun. "It's tough and it makes you think. An eight-run deficit is hard to overcome against a good team. We were shocked."
With a comfortable cushion, South Carolina starter Sam Dyson went to work with a gritty performance, throwing over 100 pitches in high temperatures.
"I thought Dyson was outstanding. You look at his line and see that he had only three strikeouts, but he would have had eight or nine against any other team today," said Tanner. "Arizona State is a tremendous club and I knew we were going to have to get 27 hard outs today."
"It's a lot easier when you have eight runs on the board - you just have to keep your focus," said Dyson. "I just worked around the plate and got some swings. Mostly it was my fastball and changeup that were working for me today."
Dyson worked seven and a third innings, striking out three batters, allowing eight hits and four earned runs.
"Talk about grinding one out. I didn't feel like he breezed through any inning, but he was a warrior out there today for them," said Esmay.
Key Performance: Jackie Bradley, Jr. - 3-4, 4 RBI, run scored vs. Arizona State
In College World Series - 5-8, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 runs
"He's a very tough out. He's aggressive and he attacks the baseball. He's one of the better players we've played against and he's playing at a very high level right now." - Esmay
Finish: 3rd at College World Series
South Carolina would return to Omaha for the third straight time in 2004 after capturing the program's first SEC Tournament title and sweeping through NCAA regional play.
The Gamecocks hosted a regional at Sarge Frye Field, defeating North Carolina twice and The Citadel to advance to the Super Regional. East Carolina would come to Columbia for a shot at Omaha, but the Gamecocks prevailed in two games to book their ticket to the College World Series.
One of four SEC teams to make the field (Georgia, LSU and Arkansas also reached the CWS), South Carolina would lose its opener again, this time a 2-0 loss to eventual champion Cal State Fullerton. The Gamecocks would beat LSU in the CWS for the second consecutive year and defeat Miami to set up a rematch with Fullerton. Carolina beat Fullerton 5-3 to force an elimination game, but the Titans would win the rubber game 4-0 to end South Carolina's season.
-The Sun Devils have become familiar foes for the Gamecocks in the confines of Rosenblatt Stadium. The two teams have met five teams at the College World Series as Arizona State leads the series 3-2.
-Sam Dyson will start for South Carolina this afternoon and will hope for a stronger start than his last postseason outing. Against Coastal Carolina in Game 2 of the Myrtle Beach Super Regional, Dyson lasted just an inning and a third, allowing four earned runs without striking out a batter. Even though he didn't earn the win, he was much more effective in the team's postseason opener against Bucknell in the Columbia Regional. Against the Bison, Dyson pitched five innings, allowing four earned runs and striking out seven batters.
-If South Carolina needs to go to the bullpen, it will call on a relatively well-rested relief corps. Despite using five relievers on Sunday, only Michael Roth faced more than three batters.
-To stay alive at the College World Series, the Gamecocks must do a better job of cashing in opportunities at the plate. Against the Sooners on Sunday night, South Carolina was hitless with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.
-It's been well-documented that the Gamecocks have struggled in opening games at the College World Series as Sunday night's loss was their seventh straight loss in the opener. However, the Gamecocks have only been eliminated in their second game twice. In 2002, Carolina won four straight and won three straight in 2004 when facing elimination.
-If the Gamecocks win today, their next game would be Thursday at 7 p.m. against the loser of tonight's Oklahoma-Clemson game. A win in that game would put Carolina against the winner of the OU-CU game on Friday at 9 PM. A win on Friday would set up a second game against the same team to decide who advances to the championship series. Essentially, the Gamecocks need a four-game winning streak over the next five days.
How they got here: Pac-10 Champions, Tempe Regional and Super Regional Champions, NCAA Tournament Overall No. 1 seed
Team Batting Average: .337
Home Runs: 68
Team ERA: 3.19
Opp. Batting Average: .242
Players to Know
P Merrill Kelly - 3.57 ERA, 10-2, 75 strikeouts, .241 opp. batting average
-Will start Tuesday vs. South Carolina
-8th round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays
-2B Zack MacPhee - .393, 9 HR, 64 RBI
-1st team All-American
-Pac-10 Player of the Year
-Semi-finalist for Golden Spikes Award
-1st team all-conference
-Has hit 14 triples this season
1B Riccio Torrez - .398, 10 HR, 54 RBI
-Pac-10's batting champion
-1st team all-conference
-1st team Louisville Slugger All-American
P Jordan Swagerty - 2.06 ERA, 2-0, 14 saves, .242 opp batting average, 46 K in 35 IP
-2nd team All-American
-2nd round draft pick by St. Louis Cardinals
-Finalist for 2010 Stopper of the Year Award
-1st team all-conference
Finish: 5th at College World Series
After reaching the national title game in 2002, the Gamecocks would make a consecutive trip to Omaha in 2003 for the second time in program history. Carolina won the SEC East for the fourth time in five seasons and went unbeaten in regional and super regional play to advance to the College World Series.
South Carolina won a regional on the road for the first time in school history, sweeping through the Atlanta Regional with a win over East Carolina and two wins against Stetson. The Gamecocks earned the right to host a Super Regional at Sarge Frye Field and dispatched border foe North Carolina 5-4 and 14-4.
In Omaha, South Carolina lost its opening game for the fifth consecutive time, dropping a 8-0 decision to Stanford. The Gamecocks stayed alive with an 11-10 win over LSU in an elimination game, but were beaten again by Stanford, 13-6.
Notable players on the 2003 squad were third baseman Brian Buscher and pither David Marchbanks. Buscher won the SEC's batting title that year with a .393 average and earned third-team All-America honors. Marchbanks was named first-team All-American and SEC Pitcher of the Year with a 15-3 record and 2.73 ERA.
A map is also below with directions to the hospitality tent. There is a garnet arrow on the map which shows the location of the tent.
Finish: 2nd at College World Series
The 2002 edition of the South Carolina baseball team may arguably be the most impressive assembly of talent to ever take the field as Gamecocks. The team featured three All-Americans, the SEC Player of the Year, four all-conference selections, three SEC All-Tournament selections, five members of the all-regional team and the SEC's Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Pitcher Blake Taylor (lead the nation in saves) and first baseman Yaron Peters (.377 batting average, 95 RBI and 29 HR) were first team All-Americans. Shortstop Drew Meyer was named second team All-American. Peters was also named SEC Player of the Year while designated hitter Trey Dyson was named SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
The Gamecocks won an SEC championship, a school-record 57 games, a regional and super regional championship and reached the national championship game.
The season also featured one of the most memorable games ever played at Sarge Frye Field as South Carolina rallied for five runs in the ninth inning to stun defending champion Miami the deciding game of the regional.
The Gamecocks were shut out 11-0 by Georgia Tech in the opener of the College World Series but fought their way through the loser's bracket with wins over Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Clemson (twice) to reach the title game against Texas. The Gamecocks would fall in the title game for the third time in program history, losing a 12-6 game to the Longhorns. After the 2002 tournament, the championship series was changed to a best-of-three series format.
The host for the College World Series since 1950, the stadium will be torn down after the Royals complete their season. The city of Omaha and the NCAA agreed to continue hosting the championship until 2035 with the CWS moving into newly constructed TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The land vacated by the demolition of the stadium will be taken over by the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Rosenblatt Stadium Fact File
Left field pole: 335 feet
Center field: 408 feet
Right field: 335 feet
What is that statue at the front?
The famous "Road to Omaha" statue was sculpted by a local artist and placed at the front of Rosenblatt Stadium in 1999. One of the players whose likeness was used to create the statue is current University of Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor. An Omaha native, O'Connor participated in the CWS in '91 for Creighton, as an assistant coach for Notre Dame in '02 and with Virginia in '09.
Rosenblatt Stadium - 2001
Once I arrived at the stadium, I headed over to the pre-game tent hosted by the Gamecock Club and Carolina Alumni Association. A solid contingent of Gamecock fans were in attendance and I have the opportunity to spend some time with long-time Gamecock fan Jack Cox.
But when the clouds failed to clear out by game time, I'll admit the spirits dropped a bit. When the delay turned into four hours and fifteen minutes of waiting, it was near agony. Finally, the game was underway.
I won't re-hash the details of the game, but it is important to remember that South Carolina has been in this position before at the College World Series. The last time the Gamecocks reached the national championship game in 2002, they did it by battling their way through the losers bracket, defeating rival Clemson on the way. Could a similar scenario present itself?
The Gamecocks will look to regroup mentally today as they practice at Creighton University at noon. Carolina will play Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Finish: 7th at College World Series
The last Gamecock team to make the College World Series in the 80s was one of the most prolific offensive teams ever to pull on the Garnet & Black. South Carolina hit 144 home runs that year and scored 629 runs (program records that still stand today). Carolina also had 773 hits, the second most in school history.
South Carolina reached Omaha by sweeping a six-team regional that included wins over Clemson, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Maine. But the Gamecocks struggled again at Rosenblatt Stadium, losing twice to go home early. Arkansas defeated Carolina 1-0 in the opener in 14 innings before Oklahoma State eliminated the Gamecocks again, 16-11.
You might say those were all factors that affected Sunday's game against Oklahoma in the College World Series, but it all comes down to just one thing:
Trailing 4-2 in the top of the ninth inning, the Gamecocks put their first two runners aboard thanks to singles by catcher Kyle Enders and pinch-hitter Robert Beary. After a strikeout by Adam Matthews, Evan Marzilli worked the count for a walk to put Carolina in a big position - the heart of the order coming to the plate and just one out.
But the big hit never came for the Gamecocks. Jackie Bradley, Jr. worked a walk to cut the Sooners' lead to 4-3, but a foul out by Whit Merrifield and a flyout from Adrian Morales killed off the rally and secured the win for Oklahoma.
"We did a great job in the last inning. We took some pitches, had some good swings, we just failed to come up with the big single or double to get us the RBI," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "Their guy [Ryan] Duke has had a nice year for them and he was very calm and able to get out of it."
Tanner credited Oklahoma's pitcher for working out of the situation.
"It gets a little frustrating, but that's part of the game," he said. "You have to give some credit to Oklahoma's guys on the mound. They made a couple pitches when they needed to."
An inning earlier, patient approaches from Morales and Christian Walker loaded the bases for the Gamecocks with two outs. But Brady Thomas hit a hard liner directly at Sooner right fielder Cody Reine to end the inning.
"[Thomas] squares the ball about as good as you can, but it was right at the right fielder," said Tanner. "We did a nice job battling, but we did not get the big hits to get us where we needed to be."
The Gamecocks finished the night hitless with runners in scoring position, striking out four times.
"We had some good at-bats. We just never came up with the big hit," Tanner said. "But we battled and Oklahoma did a nice job winning the ball game."
Weather wreaks havoc
Thanks to several hours of delay, South Carolina's game against the Sooners ended nearly nine hours after it was scheduled to start. After a four hour and fifteen minute delay backed up the first pitch, another weather stoppage in the sixth inning stopped play for two more hours.
"It was a challenge. I'm sure it was a challenge for Oklahoma as well," said Tanner. "It's just part of baseball. You have rain delays. And that was a tough one."
As a a result of the weather delays, the Arizona State - Clemson game was postponed until Monday at 11 a.m. ET. The Gamecocks will face the loser of that game on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Finish: 7th at College World Series
The Gamecocks would host a regional for the second consecutive year, sweeping through a six-team regional by defeating The Citadel, Old Dominion, North Carolina and East Carolina to give South Carolina back-to-back trips to Omaha for the first time.
However, the stay in 1982 was a short one for the Gamecocks as South Carolina left the College World Series winless. Stanford defeated Carolina 15-4 in the opening game and Oklahoma State eliminated the Gamecocks 10-8.
"This year, we decided we were coming no matter what," he said. "So the minute, we won the Super, we called and made hotel and ticket reservations. We drove out here on Wednesday."
After just a couple of days, Cox is already sold on the College World Series experience.
"I've been following baseball for many, many years and I've never seen anything like this," he said. "It's the atmosphere, it's the experience, it's everything. It's just really different. I compare it to a huge state fair with a baseball game in the middle of it."
A life-long fan, Cox has seen his share of baseball history.
"I grew up going to games at Yankee Stadium," he said. "I'm old enough to have seen Babe Ruth play."
One of his favorite memorabilia items is a baseball signed twice by Bobby Richardson - once as a player for the Yankees and again as the head coach for the Gamecocks. Cox got his introduction to Carolina baseball watching the teams of the Richardson era.
"I can remember before we had any kind of stands built up at all," said Cox. "I remember standing behind the chain-link fence to watch the game."
This year's team has Cox excited about the possibilities in Omaha.
"I think they play more as a team and a group than a lot of other teams I've seen in the past. Last year's team may have had more talent, but we have more of a team this year and I think that's part of our success," he said. "I'm just hoping and praying we can pull out a win. I hope we're here for two weeks!"
• Oklahoma's Bob Stoops was seen wandering through the press box. South Carolina counters with Darrin Horn, who was making his first trip to the College World Series. Coach Horn indicated they will be back on the road recruiting in early July.
• Kansas State head basketball coach Frank Martin and former Xavier and Virginia head coach Pete Gillen were also spotted at Rosenblatt Stadium today.
• Ray Tanner, Mark Calvi and Chad Holbrook spent an hour this morning visiting with the ESPN talent calling today's game, including Karl Ravech, Nomar Garciaparra, and Kyle Peterson. No sign of Erin Andrews, who will be doing the sidelines for tonight's Clemson-Arizona State game.
• TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle was named the National Coach of the Year by the National College Baseball Writers Association. He joins Gary Patterson as Horned Frog coaches to capture National Coach of the Year honors this year. Incidentally, both were hired at TCU by Eric Hyman.
• Finalists were named for several other postseason honors in baseball. Christian Colon of Cal State Fullerton, Jedd Gyorko of West Virginia and Ryan Soares of George Mason are the finalists for the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award. 2010 Pitcher of the Year Award finalists are Drew Pomeranz of Ole Miss, Chris Sale of Florida Gulf Coast and Alex Wimmers of Ohio State. Pomerenz, Miami's Yasmani Grandal and Anthony Rendon of Rice are the finalists for the 2010 Dick Howser Trophy. Interesting that despite their individual accomplishments, none of the national award finalists are playing here in Omaha this week.
• In a football note, each SEC school will take three student-athletes to SEC Media Days next month in Birmingham, one more than what has been done in the past. The Gamecocks will be represented by Patrick DiMarco, Cliff Matthews and Shaq Wilson.
Finish: 4th at College World Series
After the 1977 trip to the CWS, the Gamecocks failed to make the tournament in '78 and '79 and didn't advance past regional play in '80. But Carolina was able to host in the 1981 and went undefeated in the regionals with a win over Temple and two against Memphis State.
The '81 squad featured a bit more pop in the lineup than previous Omaha squads and included two .400 hitters (Rob Lowery hit .404 and Paul Hollins hit .400). Jim Curl lead the Gamecocks with 17 homers, hitting .347 with 75 RBI. As a team, the Gamecocks hit .316 with 83 HR.
South Carolina lost their opening game at the CWS for the first time in school history, dropping an 8-5 decision to Oklahoma State in 10 innings. The Gamecocks defeated Maine 12-7 in an elimination game to set up a meeting with Mississippi State. Carolina moved past the Bulldogs with a 6-5 win. But it was the Arizona State Sun Devils who ended Gamecock title hopes again, this time in a 10-7 win to send South Carolina back to Columbia with a fourth-place finish.
How they got here: Norman Regional and Charlottesville Super Regional Champions
Team Batting Average: .312
Home Runs: 100
Team ERA: 3.79
Opp. Batting Average: .257
Players to Know
Pitcher Michael Rocha - 3.57 ERA, 7-2 record, 68 IP, 53 K, .238 Opp. batting avg.
-Will start Sunday vs. South Carolina
-Started opener of Norman Regional vs. Oral Roberts, pitching five innings and allowing five earned runs
-Started opener of Charlottesville Super Regional, pitching 6.1 innings, allowing three earned runs in the loss
Outfielder Max White - .307, 15 HR, 43 RBI
-First-team Freshman All-American (National College Baseball Writers Association)
-Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American
-All Big 12 Honorable mention
Third baseman Garrett Buechele - .371, 16 HR, 64 RBI, .452 OBP
-BIg 12 Player of the Year and first-team all-conference
-Big 12 Freshman of the Year (2009)
-4-for-24 in NCAA postseason this year
Outfielder Cody Reine - .341, 10 HR, 42 RBI, .447 OBP
Catcher Tyler Ogle - .322, 9 HR, 42 RBI, .432 OBP
A map is also below with directions to the hospitality tent. There is a garnet arrow on the map which shows the location of the tent.
I spoke with Jim Costello, a Kiwanis Club member and the leader of the group's hosting efforts, on Saturday afternoon about the experience.
How long have you been involved with hosting teams?
I moved to Nebraska in 1978 and the first thing we did was buy season tickets to the College World Series. In 1980, I joined the Kiwanis Club and I started helping with the teams in 1982 and then took it over in 1983. I've had quite a few teams, quite a few characters, some national championships. It's a great experience.
What do you get out of being involved with this?
Part of it is just community service, but also for the love of the game. You have to be a great baseball fan to tolerate everything that goes with it, but also appreciate what these young men are doing.
How have you seen the College World Series change since you've been here?
Major changes. It's gone from a very rusty old car to a very nice-looking car. We're going to be moving a new model, which in a way is good (I'm sort of a die-hard). But the players are going to appreciate the new stadium. It will be better facilities for the players. The general public doesn't get a chance to see that and understand, but the game is for the players.
What do you think makes the Omaha CWS experience so unique?
I think it's that the community as a whole just opens up their arms and makes everyone feel welcome. You'd be surprised when you're out in the stadium, some crowds will root for one team and stick with them throughout the thing. It's really unique.
How do you think the new stadium will change the event?
It's going to be new digs and it will change it, but within three to four years, people will begin to appreciate the new place. People will still remember Rosenblatt, but it will still have that same feel.
Finished: 2nd at College World Series
Just two years after making the program's first trip to Omaha, the Gamecocks found themselves back at Rosenblatt Stadium in 1977 under new head coach June Raines. In his first year at the helm, Raines guided South Carolina to a 40-win season, including a season sweep of archrival Clemson.
Pitcher Randy Martz earned National Player of the Year honors, compiling a 14-0 record with a 1.98 ERA. Martz earned All-American honors and was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Cubs.
The Gamecocks hosted NCAA Regional play for the fourth consecutive season, but quickly dropped into the losers' bracket with a 7-6 opening loss to No. 2 South Alabama. South Carolina defeated East Carolina 4-1 to set up a rematch with South Alabama. The Gamecocks dispatched them with ease in an 11-2 rout. A 5-2 win over Wake Forest forced a final game on Monday to decide who went to Omaha. Randy Martz struck out 12 on two days rest to send South Carolina back to the CWS.
South Carolina won its opening three games again, defeating Baylor 3-2, Cal State-Los Angeles 6-2 and Southern Illinois-Carbondale 5-4 to propel the Gamecocks into the championship round. But title dreams were washed away as Arizona State took two straight from the Gamecocks to hand South Carolina its second runner-up finish.
How would you describe the Sooners to someone who's never seen them play?
Very determined - very gritty and level-headed. They're a team that if they get behind, they just kind of shrug their shoulders and say, "Ok." They don't panic when they get behind. That's been their trademark all year. They have 27 come-from-behind wins this year. They're a young team that plays like veterans. Part of that is due to leadership from guys like Garrett Buechele and Jeremy Erben.
Who are some players that Gamecock fans need to know?
Buechele (son of former major league Steve Buechele) carries himself so much like his dad it's scary. He was Freshman of the Year in the Big 12 last year and he's pretty slick in the field. He's a guy that's been the linchpin. He's in a bit of a deep freeze right now (4-for-24 in NCAA play) but he could turn it on at any moment.
Cody Reine wasn't even a starter earlier in the year, but was put in the starting lineup after the team's third conference series and he has just been nuts since. He's someone who has caught a lot of attention lately. He hit four homers against Virginia in the Super Regional.
Catcher Tyler Ogle has made a huge difference behind the plate and puts a charge in the middle of the lineup. He was 2-for-2 in the last game against UVA but before that he was 1-for-19. He's one of those guys that if he can get on track, can he be stopped?
Cameron Seitzer is someone who is a great spray hitter. The rest of the team are really solid .300+ hitters. You can't take a breather at the bottom of the lineup with OU.
The pitching has been the big story lately and people are asking if it's been underrated. Zach Neal and Bobby Shore have been good all year, but the Sooners couldn't find a solid No. 3 all year. They haven't had to go deep into their bullpen in the postseason and have used five pitchers in the last two weeks. I compare them to the Yankees in that they need about six good innings from their starter, then they get two innings from Erben as a set-up guy and then give it to Ryan Duke in the ninth.
How do you think Oklahoma matches up with South Carolina?
It's really even. I think Carolina has the better top-end pitchers. I think as far as swinging the bats, the two are really comparable.
How would you describe head coach Sonny Golloway's style?
The thing he always talks about is not being too high and not being too low. That might sound like a coach's cliche, but he really means that. He can play small ball and he's not afraid to have the cleanup hitter bunt. He's been really aggressive lately. You'll see a lot of hit and run and things to put pressure on the opponent's defense.
What's it feel like to come back to Omaha as a part of the team and not as a player?
It's a little bit different. I can be more relaxed and enjoy the moment. Back then, I was worrying about our next opponent. It's nice to come back here and it brings back a lot of good memories. This stadium has changed so much even since I played here with the added seating.
What's something that sticks out in your mind from your time here?
The atmosphere and the way that people treat you when you're here. It's a neutral site and you've got fans from all over, but they treat you nicely. It's not like going to an opponent's park where everyone's against you. It's a great environment and the crowds get loud and get crazy. They're so hospitable here and everyone wants an autograph. After a game, everyone's congratulating you no matter what team they're pulling for. Everybody is happy to be here and it's a big vacation-type thing for them and they're just enjoying the moment.
What kind of advice have you given the players about handling the spotlight of the CWS?
I've talked to them a lot throughout the year about Omaha and they always ask me questions about the experience. The biggest thing is to just enjoy it. Just telling them to relax. Obviously they're going to be pumped up and anxious, but once they get out there, it's just baseball. These guys are relaxed and they've always played loose so they're going to have a good time.
Do you think the new stadium will have an impact on the atmosphere?
I hope not. Obviously the first year will be a little different. But the atmosphere around the stadium is what makes it unique. It's going to be different to get used to that but it's going to be a great environment at the stadium. I'm sure they'll be setting up tents right outside it. It looks amazing. It's going to be nice no matter what they do - this area is just perfect for baseball.
What's something you hope to do now that you couldn't do as a player?
When I was here before, we went and ate at some nice places and stuff, but we didn't really seek out. We just kind of followed everybody. Now I can choose what I want to do. Obviously, I'm still working and I've got a bunch of students back home I've got to worry about. Before I couldn't soak up the moment, but now I can enjoy it as a fan.
What's it feel like to finally experience Omaha for the first time?
This is a special place - you watch it, you read about it, you hear all the stories and it's just a thrill to be here as a parent and as part of it. Whit is beside himself, but all these kids are. That's the joy of baseball - they finally get to have fun here. Not that they didn't have fun earlier, but it's a grind all year. Now it's true baseball. That's why you see such great competition and great plays here because they're all just having fun.
What do you hope Whit gets out of this experience?
Just to have the experience. Sure, everyone wants to come here and win. But you've got the best eight teams in the country that are playing right now. Winning is just the cherry. It's a big-league atmosphere and they get to do everything they dreamed about. That's priceless. I'm happy everyone gets to experience that.
What's it been like to be out here?
Getting out here and seeing the fans and seeing the atmosphere around the stadium - that's special. It's a memory you'll never forget. No matter how much money you have or what you do, you can't ever replace memories. So it didn't matter how much money it cost or how much work I had to miss, I had to be here and my family had to be here. We want to share it with Whit and share it with Coach Tanner who gave Whit that opportunity to be here.
What kind of emotions do you expect to feel when Whit runs on the field for the first time?
Proud. Proud of the organization, proud of what Coach Tanner's been able to do, proud of Whit for working so hard to get here. I know my wife will be so nervous she won't be able to see straight. I'm proud that Whit was able to help them get here. That's always been important to him. If you look back in the interviews earlier in the season, he always said "I want to help this team get to Omaha and that's what I came here for". There's not many kids that can say that and live their dream.
Nick Ebert earned the Gamecocks a local fan with his hairstyle choice:
Later in the evening, the public was invited back to Rosenblatt Stadium for the College World Series Opening Ceremonies. There appeared to be about 10,000 people in attendance. Each team was introduced one at a time and walked in from the outfield while a brief team highlight video played on the board. The Gamecocks received a very positive response from the Omaha crowd.
After the introductions, academic awards were given to the player on each team with the highest GPA as well as a team award to the school with the best overall GPA at the College World Series. Michael Roth won the Gamecock individual award with a 3.82 GPA and South Carolina won the overall team award with a 3.12 GPA.
Each member of the CWS Legends team that was able to attend walked on-field wearing their alma mater's hat and received a commemorative bat. South Carolina honoree Landon Powell was unable to attend. Barry Bonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Robin Ventura, Will Clark and Todd Walker all came out to strong applause. To end the evening and officially open the CWS, an excellent 15-minute firework show entertained the crowd. The games begin today at 2 p.m. ET when Florida State faces TCU.
Call it grit, resilience, battling, never-say-die attitude, a fighting spirit. Whatever your choice of vocabulary, it's apparent that this Gamecock team possesses some intangible ability. Last weekend's performance against Coastal Carolina was simply a microcosm of South Carolina's entire season. When you put South Carolina's back against the wall, this team responds.
Go back to early March when the Gamecocks lost two of three to archrival Clemson. How did the club respond? Oh, just by reeling off thirteen straight wins.
Fast-forward to early May. After dropping two of three on the road at Kentucky and facing a hostile road environment at Arkansas, South Carolina swept the Razorbacks to put them in position to challenge Florida on the final week of the season for the league title.
Early June. The Gamecocks fall behind in each of their three regional games before battling their way to a victory. Some might say that's a mark of a struggling team. I'd say it's just a team that refuses to quit.
"We never panic," said junior Adrian Morales. "We just focus on staying even-keeled no matter if the chips are down. We didn't panic at the end of the season after losing two at the SEC Tournament and we were able to get to Omaha."
Just wanted to show a few pictures I took this morning on my first visit to Rosenblatt Stadium. The Gamecocks don't take batting practice until 2 p.m., but we wanted to get over and take a look. Florida State was taking swings while we walked around with Florida waiting to take the field. It's hard to describe the ballpark in words. It holds 25,000, but has a very intimate feeling even when the stands are empty. It's going to be a great atmosphere on gameday.
The weather is beautiful with sunny skies and warm weather. A bit humid, but nothing to shake the thrill of being at the College World Series. We walked through the CWS Fan Fest area - there's a variety of sponsorship booths set up as well as different games for kids. There's a mini-field set up where kids can take swings off a pitching machine firing in whiffle balls:
They also had a photo opportunity where you could put on a glove and "rob" a hitter of a home run. This catch here will go down in Rosenblatt history:
We're heading back out to Rosenblatt this afternoon to catch Carolina take batting practice. After practice, the team will have an autograph session at 3:30 p.m. If the lines for the earlier teams are any indications, I expect to see nearly 200 people in line. Later this evening, there will be a concert with Julianne Hough and Bucky Covington. Finally, the night ends with the College World Series Opening Ceremonies featuring the introduction of all eight teams. We'll have pictures from the rest of today's events up later tonight. I'll leave you with this photo of the famous Road To Omaha statue in front of the stadium:
You can listen to Andy Demetra and Tommy Moody at the College World Series by tuning to any of the network's season-long affiliates:
Allendale (WDOG) - 93.5 FM
Anderson (WRIX) - 103.1 FM
Camden (WPUB) - 102.7 FM
Charleston (WTMA) - 1250 AM
Clinton (WPCC) - 1410 AM
Columbia (WNKT) - 107.5 FM
Greenwood (WLMA) - 1350 AM
In addition, the following stations will broadcast the games during the CWS:
WOLH-AM 1230 KHz, Florence, SC
WOLH-FM 98.9 MHz, Florence, SC
WHYM-AM 1260 KHz, Lake City, SC
WDXY-AM 1240 KHz, Sumter, SC
WDXY-FM 105.9 MHz, Sumter, SC
WBCU-AM 1460 Union, SC
Finished: 2nd at College World Series
In similar fashion to this year's College World Series club, the first South Carolina team to reach Omaha earned their way with an emphasis on quality pitching. The 1975 edition of the Gamecocks featured a four-man pitching rotation that accounted for 49 of the team's 51 wins.
National player of the year runner-up and All-American pitcher Earl Bass lead the way, winning seventeen games with an impressive 1.40 ERA. Greg Ward (13) and Tim Lewis (11) reached double digits in wins while Raymond Lavigne was unbeaten with an 8-0 mark. Lewis and Lavigne recorded back-to-back no-hit games and the Gamecocks finished with a team ERA of 2.00.
But the Gamecocks also had some punch at the plate. All-American first baseman Hank Small batted .390 with 19 home runs. South Carolina batted .297 as a team and stole 142 bases that year.
After losing just four regular-season games, South Carolina hosted regional play and swept The Citadel, Temple and N.C. State to clinch the program's first trip to Omaha. The Gamecocks were unbeaten in their first three games at the CWS, defeating Seton Hall 3-1, Eastern Michigan 5-1 and Arizona State 6-3.
South Carolina was beaten in the next round by Texas 17-6 and had to face the Sun Devils in an elimination game. The Gamecocks defeated Arizona State 4-1 behind a complete game performance from Lewis to advance to the title game against Texas. However, South Carolina's first trip to Omaha would not end with a championship as the Longhorns defeated the Gamecocks 5-1.
With these Gamecocks, the whole truly has been greater than the sum of its parts. Without any real "superstar" on the roster, South Carolina has reached Omaha thanks largely to an emphasis and belief in the power of a team.
"It's one thing for a coach to talk about being a team and all that, but the players have to accept that and they have. That's why they've been successful," said Tanner. "It hasn't been because of me. It's been because of their approach and that they've bought in with each other."
"This team has really bonded as teammates," said sophomore Adam Matthews. "We have confidence in each other and we know that we can get it done."
"We've got the right guys this year," said senior Blake Cooper. "We've bonded well and I've got some great friends on this team. I feel like that's going to carry us a long way."
The Old Market (pictured below) is a district of Omaha that was once the heart of trade in the 19th century. The city retained the architectural style of many of the buildings and redeveloped the area into a bustling entertainment center.
At the local establishment we selected, our friendly server Megan (an Omaha native and a student at Creighton) kept us entertained with her Midwestern charm and gave us the low-down on enjoying her favorite time of the year.
"I love it during the College World Series," she said. "There's so many people here and it's a big party."
I left the group to walk around downtown, remembering that the tournament's new stadium (under construction) appeared to be close. About two miles and a lot of sweating later, I finally reached the new ballpark (I'll have a post on the stadium this weekend. For now, here's a couple of photos). Also - while the temperatures don't match Columbia's recent highs, it's still pretty hot here. A glance at the heat index this afternoon said 101 degrees.
Here's some good news items from today about the CWS:
-In my last diary post, I had some photos of Coach Tanner and Bobby Haney being interviewed by local media. You can watch the segment on local station WOWT's website here.
-Whether you're coming to Omaha or not, you need to read Ryan McGee's CWS Itinerary. It paints a clear picture of the uniqueness of this event.
-Travis Haney with the Charleston Post & Courier has a look at a unique inspirational item the Gamecocks carry with them.
Big day coming up tomorrow. First chance to see the inside of The Blatt.
Haven't seen a whole lot of Omaha yet. Our bus drove a quick circle around Rosenblatt Stadium before we reached our downtown hotel. The stadium sits at the top of a hill and is impressive in an intimate sort of way. I can't wait to see it from the inside for the first time.
As the Gamecock bus pulled up to our hotel, the staff was lining the walkway wearing Gamecock hats and waving pom-poms while Sandstorm was blasting from the speakers. Pretty cool stuff.
This is my first trip to an event of this magnitude, so I'm looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere and hopefully doing a good job of telling that story to you. From what I've heard from people who have been here before, the experience of being in Omaha during the College World Series is better than a Final Four or BCS bowl game. I'm interested to learn how.
What's on the docket for today? The Gamecocks will practice this afternoon at a local high school before getting the chance to take the field at Rosenblatt tomorrow. I'm going to get out and do some Omaha exploring. Tomorrow will be a busy day and I want to get the lay of the land.
Couple of notes on the two-hour flight from Columbia to Omaha:
-Gamecock players and coaches dressed casually for the trip, wearing white Under Armour polos with an interlocking SC logo and a College World Series patch on the sleeve (picture coming soon)
-Trip started off well for yours truly as I was able to get a window seat (hate the aisle).
-I counted six personal camcorders from players as the team was loading onto the plane. I think it's safe to say this trip will be well-documented.
-In-flight movie: The Blind Side.
We'll have a few regular features on the blog while we're in Omaha, one of them being this diary. In addition, we'll take a look back at how the Gamecocks have done in past trips to the College World Series as well as some features on what makes Omaha so special. If you've got something you want us to look into and find out, drop us a comment.
Here's a few photos from the Gamecock arrival at the team's hotel:
Jackie Bradley, Jr. stepping off the bus
Bobby Haney giving an interview
Team bags laid out by equipment staff
Ability to Generate Offense
Despite hitting the lowest number of home runs since 2005 (90), the Gamecocks have been able to put runs on the board with a mixture of a small-ball approach and the "old-school" power attack. Part of the change in philosophy comes from the addition of Associate Head Coach Chad Holbrook to the South Carolina coaching staff.
"As a player, he was a guy who used the other side of the field, used his speed and had a good two-strike approach and that's something we've done a better job of in our program," said Tanner. "He's made an impression on our guys. We've done a much better job of not striking out as much and walks and on-base percentage have become a much bigger factor."
The eighth inning in Sunday's 10-9 win over Coastal Carolina showed how the Gamecocks have blended their old style offense with a new approach.
Facing a two-out situation against Coastal closer Austin Fleet, Jackie Bradley, Jr. (one of the team's leading hitters) worked the count to draw a walk. Adrian Morales followed up Bradley's walk with a timely double to put runners on second and third for freshman Christian Walker. The first baseman waited for his pitch and sent it out of the park.
With an infield including shortstop Bobby Haney (2009 SEC All-Defensive selection) and second baseman Scott Wingo (2010 SEC All-Defensive selection) and an outfield anchored by center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr (2010 SEC All-Defensive selection), the Gamecocks have shown they can pick the ball up. The Gamecocks have fielded the ball at a .974 clip, good for 3rd in the SEC and 17th in the nation (Texas leads the country with a .980 fielding percentage).
"[Playing good defense] helps keep the game in check, it limits damage and it takes some momentum away from the other team," said Tanner. "It gets your pitchers deeper into the game and gives them a little more life."
Instead of mashing their way to Omaha, the Gamecocks have made it with some of their best pitching numbers at South Carolina in recent years.
The staff has the best team ERA (3.61) since 2004. You have to go back to 1993 to find a Gamecock team with fewer hits allowed and 2003 for a team that has allowed fewer runs. It's also been 17 years since a Gamecock pitching staff allowed fewer earned runs.
Through the regular season, South Carolina consistently pitched with excellence, leading the conference in team ERA, opposing batting average, wins, hits allowed, runs allowed and earned runs allowed. The Gamecocks were 2nd in the league in strikeouts and allowed the third-fewest home runs.
Nationally, the pitching staff ranks 9th in team ERA, 4th in strikeouts per nine innings (9.0) and 3rd in hits allowed per game (7.65).
But just a moment.
"I'm going to smile and look around at all the fans," he said, "and then get the tunnel-vision on and go to work to bring the title back to South Carolina."
It's that blue-collar mentality that has carried the Gamecocks through a grueling season in the Southeastern Conference and five hard-fought games in the NCAA Tournament. Enjoying the ride is important, but winning baseball games matters more.
"You can't get too caught up in the mix. It's still baseball," said Adam Matthews. "We'll be on the big stage but you've got to go out there and approach every game in the same way."
Playing for a program that competes with the expectation of reaching Omaha as well as playing in one of the toughest leagues in the country has prepared the Gamecocks for coping with the spotlight of the College World Series.
"I feel like pitching in the SEC, you've been battle tested all year as a pitcher, as a position player and as a coach," said Blake Cooper. "I knew when I came here that there was a great tradition and I knew the expectation for having good teams."
"This is why you come to USC," said Matthews. "To go to Omaha."
While the team expects to battle for a national championship, South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner also believes it's important for his players to have a memorable time.
"I want them to enjoy this experience. It's a wonderful opportunity for a student-athlete to reach the pinnacle of your sport whether it's a bowl game, a Final Four or the College World Series," said Tanner. "It doesn't get any better and I want them to cherish this opportunity."
Enjoying the experience doesn't mean the Gamecocks are just happy to be in Omaha. Tanner said staying loose is a key for success.
"Does that mean you're not going to be focused on trying to win baseball games? Absolutely not," he said. "But you're not going to play good baseball if you're tight and put too much pressure on yourself."
Low ranks DE Cliff Matthews at No. 20:
One of the hardest working players in the league, the 6-4, 260-pound Matthews never gives up on a play. It's a big reason South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier calls Matthews one of his favorite players that he's ever coached. A second-team All-SEC selection last season by the coaches, Matthews has started in 33 games over his career and racked up 17.5 tackles for loss. He's as good against the run as he is getting to the passer. Matthews, who started his career as an outside linebacker, has tremendous quickness off the ball, which makes him such an effective pass-rusher.
and WR Alshon Jeffery at No. 18:
A consensus Freshman All-American, Jeffery established himself as one of the most explosive receivers in the league a year ago. As his knowledge of how to go against SEC cornerbacks and how to run routes grew, so did his game.
You can catch both of these players in action at Williams-Brice Stadium this season. Great seats are still available - click here for details. The season kicks off at home on Sept. 2nd vs Southern Miss at 7:30 p.m.
What a blast: Walker's homer sends USC to College World Series - Neil White, The State
The freshman first baseman admitted a home run was in the back of his mind as he got ready to hit late Sunday afternoon. The same went for everyone in the park wearing garnet, including USC coach Ray Tanner as he gave Walker a piece of advice.
"Everyone was thinking that. He said, 'If you see one, crush it,'" Walker said.
That he did.
"That was definitely one of the better jogs I've taken in my life," Walker said. "I was just making sure I touched all the bases."
On the field, minutes after the celebration had died down, Walker found his cellphone and called his parents, Scott Walker and Julie Signorovitch, back home in Pennsylvania. His call was greeted by screams of jubilation.
His father told Walker he could not bear to watch on TV as his son's shining moment approached. Dad bowed his head in prayer. Within minutes, that prayer was answered for Walker and for USC fans everywhere.
It's been six years since South Carolina played in the College World Series. To some, its coach asserted, it's felt like a quarter-century.
No matter your point of perception, the wait is over. The Gamecocks are again part of the final eight in Omaha.
USC played from behind all day against Coastal Carolina until Christian Walker's three-run home run with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning delivered a dramatic 10-9 super regional-clinching victory at sold-out, rowdy BB&T Coastal Field.
It was a flashback to USC's glory days last decade, when the Gamecocks made regular trips to Omaha on the strength of multi-run homers. These Gamecocks were built much differently, but they produced a bomb when they needed it most.
"Coach [Ray] Tanner told me when I was in the on-deck circle that I needed to get on base so that Walker could hit his three-run home run," Morales said.
Here's a few photos from the late-night arrival:
Head Coach Ray Tanner and Assistant Coach Mark Calvi
Tired players unloading off the bus
Excited fans welcome the team back
For more on the U.S. Open, click here. Here's a couple articles about Silvers' trip to the U.S. Open:
U.S. Open: Silvers gets his break - Bob Spear, The State
"I'm still on Cloud Nine," Silvers said two days after securing his berth in this week's Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
He earned his spot the hard way, winning a sudden-death playoff on the second hole in sectional qualifying in Roswell, Ga. Considering a couple of near-misses since turning pro a year ago, producing under pressure made this achievement more satisfying.
"I was very fortunate to have received a scholarship to South Carolina and I was just one of those people where I seemed to be getting better every year," Silvers said. "My fundamentals, my mindset, everything kept improving. Once I had my senior year I looked back from my freshman year to see just how much better I'd gotten. I feel if I keep progressing that way I have a really good shot at playing some good golf professionally."
The Boyd that was signed by the Argos in March is a religious man who was married in January 2009 and changed his workout schedule drastically in the off-season at home in Aurora, Colo. Boyd often began training at midnight, going until 4 a.m., so his schedule would balance more with his wife Brittany's work hours.
"I wanted to spend time with my family (his wife and a cousin) when they got off work," Boyd said. "When they went to sleep I went to work out. It planned out well."
That passion on the part of the 6-foot-1, 214-pound Boyd impressed Barker. Now, Boyd wants to re-pay Barker's faith. The decision to hang on to Boyd looked a lot smarter when running back DeCori Birmingham retired suddenly on Wednesday.
Instant Hero: Freshman Christian Walker crushed a three-run shot to left field to bring the Gamecocks back from a 9-7 deficit with two outs in the eighth inning.
We'll have more on GamecocksOnline.com and Spurs Up Blog later. If you're wondering who South Carolina will face next, the Gamecocks will play the winner of the Virginia-Oklahoma Super Regional.
For now, you can get your hands on the new Victory t-shirt from the South Carolina Online Store.
Men's Head Coach Mark Berson - I think the US team will do well. The huge drama in this first game against England is really compelling. It would be like Spain having a football team of their own and coming to play our NFL guys. We invented football and it's a huge game in our country. That's the way soccer is to the English. Another thing that makes it more interesting is the result in 1950 when we beat them in the World Cup. We don't have the star power that they do, but anything can happen in this game and I think we're going to be right there. A win against England would not surprise me.
I think we can reach the semifinals. I'm a little optimistic. I see us coming out behind England in our group and we would likely draw Germany next. That's a massive game and I think if we can win that game, it would mean a successful World Cup for the United States. I think we'll be facing the winner of Argentina vs. France after that game.
Of course, anybody's pick is anybody's pick. Anything can happen and the odds of this all happening are slim. But I do think the US is genuinely expected to get out of our group. If we can come out as the No. 1 team, then we'll likely play Serbia. That half of the bracket is much easier. If we're the No. 2 from our group, then we'll probably go against Germany and I think that will define the whole deal. If we can get through that, then who knows what can happen for us.
Women's Head Coach Shelley Smith - I think the US can place in the top two in their group and move on. The next group they would face are all beatable as well, so they could make a good run. I just don't see them getting past some of the more powerful soccer countries to get to a final. England will be a tough test for them to start.
Men's Assistant Bert Molinary - I think US make it out of their group, but loses in the 2nd round to Serbia.
Men's Assistant Mike Babst - I want to say the US will make it to the quarterfinals, but I don't think they'll get out of their group.
Who do you have in the quarterfinals?
Berson - In the final eight, I've got England vs. Mexico, Brazil vs. Holland, France vs. US, and Spain vs. Italy.
Who are your final four teams and your winner?
Berson - For the semifinals, I think it will be England vs. Brazil and the United States vs. Spain. I think Brazil will beat England and I think Spain will beat the US. I have Spain winning the whole thing.
Smith - It's difficult to make a prediction with all of the injuries to some key players who should have been playing in the World Cup. I think Brazil and Spain are in the final. I would pick Brazil to win.
Molinary - My semi-finalists are Spain, Brazil, Serbia and England, Spain and Brazil meet in the final with Spain winning the World Cup.
Babst - I have Spain beating the Netherlands in the final with Serbia finishing in 3rd place and England in 4th.
|Site||Paid Attendance (Avg)||Top Single Game|
|Fayetteville, Ark||44,904 (6,415)||8,428|
|Austin, Texas||40,793 (6,799)||7,131|
|Columbia, SC||33,964 (5,661)||6,712|
|Charlottesville, VA||29,136 (4,162)||4,801|
|Auburn, AL||24,837 (3,548)||4,096|
|Myrtle Beach, SC||17,646 (2,521)||4,306|
|Fort Worth, TX||16,883 (2,814)||3,160|
|Norwich, CT||16,065 (2,678)||5,684|
|Atlanta, GA||15,706 (2,244)||4,157|
|Louisville, KY||14,247 (2,035)||3,682|
|Tempe, AZ||12,825 (2,138)||4,371|
|Gainesville, FL||12,430 (2,072)||3,217|
|Fullerton, CA||11,849 (1,693)||2,434|
|Coral Gables, FL||11,762 (1,680)||3,152|
|Norman, OK||9,438 (1,573)||2,720|
|Los Angeles, CA||8,808 (1,468)||2,613|
The kid has an edge to him, without question. It's obvious every time he opens his mouth. But it's an edge that's both consistent and genuine -- and rooted in fierce loyalty.
"You see that he wants to win," Merrifield said. "I know it's college ball, but if there was ever a benches-clearing fight, he'd be the first one out there to have your back.
"He's definitely the kind of guy you want on your team. He reminds me a lot of coach Tanner, just the desire to win at all costs. He's the kind of guy you need to have on your team if you want to go far."
That comparison, to Tanner, is an interesting one. Merrifield isn't the only one that offers it.
In fact, minutes before Merrifield did so, unprovoked, Morales had sort of similarly dissected it.
"I'm straight-forward with him. He's honest with me," Morales said. "He'll say, 'Look, you need to step it up.' And I'll take that to heart. I'm my biggest critic. I know if I need to step it up. I did this past weekend."
Bullpen having fun, piling up outs - Neil White, The State
Just beyond the right-center field fence in Carolina Stadium is the cozy enclosed area of the USC bullpen.
Sitting in that bullpen are the guys who can claim much of the credit for the Gamecocks' deepest postseason run in three seasons.
While frontline starters Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson have grabbed the headlines, the talented relief corps led by Matt Price, Michael Roth and Jose Mata has ensured USC's participation against Coastal Carolina in a Super Regional this weekend.
How They Got Here: Defeated College of Charleston to clinch the Myrtle Beach Regional and advance to the second Super Regional in program history. The Chanticleers finished the regular season with a 25-0 mark in the Big South and also won the Big South Tournament championship.
What is a Chanticleer? From GoCCUSports.com:
Chanticleer comes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. More specifically, he comes from the Nun's Priest Tale, a story within Canterbury Tales. The Chanticleer is a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard.
For the best description of Chanticleer, we turn to Chaucer's words. "For crowing there was not his equal in all the land. His voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold." With all of his splendor and great looks, Chanticleer is also greatly feared and mightily respected by all.
Now, the picture of Chanticleer is clear. As Chanticleer proves in the Nun's Priest Tale, he is much more than a pretty face. He uses his great wit, knowledge, and cunning to come out on top every time. This makes Chanticleer a perfect fit for Coastal Carolina Athletics. Chanticleer epitomizes a CCU student-athlete in every way. From his athletic and strong build, to his vast knowledge, to his mindset to always finish on top, Chanticleer is the mirror image of CCU's Chanticleers.
Batting Average - .326
Home Runs - 107
Runs Scored - 591
Stolen Bases - 160
ERA - 3.51
Strikeouts - 518
Opp. Batting Average - .246
Who To Know
OF Rico Noel - .348 batting average, 11 HR, 62 RBI, 56 stolen bases
-Drafted in the 5th round by San Diego
-Named Regional MVP, batting .435 with seven RBI, a double, triple and walk-off home run.
-First-team All-Big South selection
-Leads nation in stolen bases
3B Scott Woodward - .330, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 54 stolen bases
-Drafted in the 15th round by Oakland
-2nd in nation in stolen bases
-First-team All-Big South
2B Tommy La Stella - .375, 14 HR, 63 RBI
-Leads team in batting average
-First-team All-Big South
C Jose Iglesias - .344, 16 HR, 78 RBI
-First-team All-Big South
-One of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award (awarded to nation's best catcher)
P Cody Wheeler - 3.59 ERA, 12-0, 111 strikeouts, .247 Opp. batting average
-Second team Louisville Slugger All-American
-First-team All-Big South
-Drafted in 5th round by Arizona
-Earned two wins in Myrtle Beach Regional (complete game vs. Stony Brook & pitched last three innings in regional-clinching victory)
P Anthony Meo - 2.63 ERA, 13-2, 94 strikeouts, .227 Opp. batting average
-Second team Louisville Slugger All-American
-Big South Pitcher of the Year
-First-team All-Big South
Series with South Carolina: Gamecocks lead the all-time series with a 10-5 mark. The two teams have not met since 2002 when South Carolina defeated Coastal Carolina 11-2. The Chanticleers' last win over the Gamecocks came in 1995.
South Carolina, according to Steele, has the No. 2 toughest schedule in the country behind only Iowa State. The Gamecocks play five SEC teams that are likely to be ranked entering the season, including top-10 foes Alabama and Florida. They also travel to Clemson to end the season.
Six other SEC schools make Steele's Top 25.
|Coastal Carolina (National Rank)||South Carolina (National Rank)|
|.326 (40th)||.302 (102nd)|
|Runs Per Game||9.4 (6th)||7.4 (100th)|
|Home Runs||107 (3rd)||89 (18th)|
|Stolen Bases||160 (3rd)||45 (221st)|
|Runs||591 (4th)||450 (64th)|
|Hits||714 (24th)||639 (82nd)|
|ERA||3.51 (8th)||3.53 (9th)|
|Strikeouts Per 9 Innings||8.2 (30th)||9.1 (4th)|
|Fielding Percentage||.970 (64th)||.974 (20th)|
-Both schools played nine teams that reached the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks were 16-7 against NCAA teams while the Chanticleers were 9-5.
-Each school played one national seed. The Gamecocks were 1-2 against No. 3 seed Florida. The Chanticleers were 0-1 against No. 5 seed Virginia.
-Six of South Carolina's conference opponents (Auburn, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Florida) reached the NCAA Tournament (Gamecocks were 12-6 in those games). The Chants were the only team from the Big South to make the postseason.
-South Carolina played five teams during the regular season that reached a Super Regional (Clemson, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Arkansas and Florida). The Gamecocks were 9-6 against those opponents. Coastal played two (Clemson and Virginia). Chanticleers were 1-1 against those teams.
|Common Opponents||Coastal Carolina||South Carolina|
|College of Charleston||2-3||1-0|
More than 75,000 fans will cram into Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 2 for the University of South Carolina's first home football game against Southern Mississippi.
None of them will be closer to the action than Thomas Heyward Academy graduate Jacob Baker.
As a member of the Gamecocks' scout team, Baker will be on the sidelines, waiting for an opportunity to one day take the field.
Coach Steve Spurrier probably won't call his number that day. In fact, Baker might not play all season. And there's not likely to be a $1 million signing bonus or NFL career at the end of this rainbow.
That's OK with him.
Baker isn't doing this for fame or fortune. He's doing it for himself, realizing his lifelong dream of being a member of USC's football team. He's also doing it for his older brother Justin, who died last year at the age of 25.
This is exactly what Justin wanted -- Jacob is officially a Gamecock.
Neil White of The State has a feature in today's paper on freshman outfielder Evan Marzilli - click here to read.
After the South Carolina baseball team's regular season ended against Florida three weeks ago, it appeared the highlight of outfielder Evan Marzilli's freshman campaign would be the start of the second game against the Gators, when he played "The Star-Spangled Banner" on his electric guitar.
Then came the NCAA Regional.
That's when the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Cranston, R.I., packed a season's worth of highlights into three games. The left-handed Marzilli helped the Gamecocks sweep through the Carolina Stadium regional on the way to the Super Regional this weekend in Myrtle Beach.
We spoke with Josh Hoke, sportswriter for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, this week to get his perspective on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Hoke covers Coastal Carolina sports for the newspaper. You can read Hoke's blog, The Roost, here.
How would you describe Coastal Carolina to someone who has never seen them play?
One of the most dynamic teams in the country. We've done some research and they're the first team since 2001 with 150 steals and 100 home runs. The two guys at the top of the lineup, Scott Woodward and Rico Noel, are two of the best in the country on the basepaths. There's a lot of power and not many holes in the lineup right now. Solid starting pitching with depth in the bullpen. They're the epitome of a team. They've played together for a while now and bought into the team concept and gelled at the right time. It's a perfect storm of guys coming together.
Who are the players that Gamecock fans need to know?
Pitchers - Anthony Meo, he's a sophomore. He will be a late first or second round pick next year when he's draft-eligible. He's got a 94-95 mile per hour fastball and throws a good slider as well. Cody Wheeler is a lefty and expected to go in the first five rounds of the draft. Those two will be key. They are glad the regional starts Saturday because they both pitched twice [Wheeler threw 172 pitches and Meo threw 120 over the weekend). It will be interesting to see how those guys come back.
[Editor's Note: Wheeler was drafted in the fifth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here's what the scouting report on MLB.com had to say about Wheeler - "He's not just a finesse southpaw; he has the fastball that's above-average and two secondary pitches that will be at least average offerings for him as a pro. He has decent command and looks like the type of college pitcher who could be big league ready fairly quickly."
Rico Noel and Scott Woodward both run at will. Jose Iglesias is a finalist for the Johnny Bench award - he's a big power bat that can hit for average. Tommy La Stella leads the team in average. Those four at the top are really deadly. But there's not many holes. For the last three weeks, it's been someone at the bottom of the lineup kick starting things.
How do you think Coastal matches up with South Carolina?
They are very similar. I'm interested to see how Coastal handles SEC pitching. Dyson and Cooper will be two of the best guys they've seen all year. They've seen some good guys this year. They did well against [Daniel] Bibona from UC-Irvine earlier in the year.
[Editor's Note: Bibona was named the 2010 Big West Pitcher of the Year after leading UC Irvine on the mound with a 9-2 record and a league-leading 2.10 ERA. He was named a first-team Louisville Slugger All-American as well. His line against CCU: 5.1 IP, 6 earned runs, and 2 strikeouts.]
It will be good to see how they handle upper echelon pitching. I think Coastal might be a little bit faster and more athletic. They have higher power numbers, but some of those numbers are due to the park they play in. I think it's just two very similar teams.
After winning the regional in such emotional fashion, how do you think that will affect the team?
I'm sure the team is thankful to start play on Saturday. They're going to take the day off and try to regroup. To lose Saturday night and have to win your last three games, two of them against a very very good team - that takes a lot out of you. But this team isn't going to settle. They've talked about Omaha all year and the expectation has been Omaha. They won't be happy just getting to the Supers. But South Carolina did have to play two fewer games and they got done a day earlier. so that might give [the Gamecocks] the upper hand.
What kind of advantage does playing at home give Coastal?
I think the park itself makes a negligible difference for the two teams. Coastal has played ten games there and sets up well for them, but it also sets up well for South Carolina. I think the main advantage is just that they're at home and that they won't be overrun with South Carolina fans.
Do you think the opponent in the Super Regional brings any extra emphasis for the team and/or fans?
No doubt. I think this could be the biggest moment in Coastal Carolina University history outside of making the playoffs for the first time in football. There's been no other moment where they've been on a national stage like this. They were in a Super Regional a few years ago against UNC, but that was on the road and no one expected them to do anything. It means a lot. You can't overstate how much this weekend means to this community. People are torn. There's people who have a South Carolina degree but they affiliate with Coastal. A lot of people don't know who to cheer for this weekend.
Dyson was selected in the fourth round by the Toronto Blue Jays as the 126th overall pick in the draft. Click here for a brief scouting video from MLB.com. Here's what MLB.com said about Dyson:
Dyson has already been drafted twice, first in the 19th round out of high school, then again in the 10th round a year ago as a red-shirted sophomore. He has power stuff, with a fastball he can throw in the 92-95 mph range. He has a solid-average slider and an average changeup to complement the heater. Dyson missed his freshman season with labrum surgery and some teams will be scared off by his medical reports. If he can stay healthy, he has middle-of-the-rotation type stuff.
Merrifield was selected in the ninth round by the Kansas City Royals with the 269th overall pick. Click here to watch a brief scouting video of the junior from MLB.com.
The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Cooper with the 361st selection in the 12th round. Haney was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 21st round and Neff was picked in the 22nd round by the Kansas City Royals.
it's because there's not any bleachers in them. Similar to what was done in the lower west stands last summer, all of the seats are being removed for a project to reseal and waterproof the concrete in the upper deck. Don't worry - after the waterproofing is complete, the bleachers will be re-installed.
If you weren't able to get tickets to this weekend's clash, don't be discouraged. All of the games will be televised as follows:
Saturday - Noon (ESPNU)
Sunday - 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Monday - 1 or 7 p.m. (ESPN2) - If Necessary
If you're going to be in the Grand Strand area, make sure you've got your car flags waving, your garnet on and your rooster crow ready. We might be on the road, but that doesn't mean we can't take over!
Capacity: 6,600 (5,200 fixed seats)
Cost: $13 million (1998)
Interesting fact: The seats are from Fulton County Stadium, the former home of the Atlanta Braves
Right field pole: 328 feet (Comparison to Carolina Stadium: 325)
Center field: 400 feet (Carolina Stadium: 390)
Left field pole: 308 feet (Carolina Stadium: 325)
All Gamecock Club members may request tickets immediately by logging into Account Manager on GamecocksOnline.com, however due to the limited quantity of ticket provided to the University of South Carolina the estimated points required to acquire tickets is 1,500 or higher.
Gamecock fans that do not qualify for tickets based on points are encouraged to purchase seats through the Myrtle Beach Pelican Box Office by calling 843-918-6000 or 877-918-TIXX (8499) or ordering online at myrtlebeachpelicans.com.
Major League Baseball's annual amateur draft begins tonight at 7 p.m. with live coverage on MLB.com and the MLB Network. The first 50 picks (the first and supplemental compensation rounds) will be tonight with the draft continuing for two more days on Tuesday and Wednesday. The draft resumes on Tuesday at noon. You can follow the entire draft on MLB.com's Draft Central.
Neil White of The State has a story about pitcher Sam Dyson's approach to the draft process this season. Dyson is projected to go in the third or fourth round of the draft.
Gamecock outfielder Whit Merrifield and pitcher Blake Cooper could also be selected within the first ten rounds.
What do you think? Think we'll see him at Williams-Brice Stadium this fall?
One Step Closer - Travis Haney, Charleston Post & Courier
Given its three-day run through the regional, Carolina Stadium proved to be every bit the advantage that South Carolina was hopeful it would be.
The looming question now: Will the facility get even more use in the coming days?
The top-seeded Gamecocks scored 10 unanswered runs Sunday night to dispatch No. 2 seed Virginia Tech, 10-2, in front of 6,233 fans, giving them a three-up, three-down regional title and their first super regional berth since 2007.
USC breaks out bats, advances to Super Regional - Neil White, The State
South Carolina parlayed its version of the daily double Sunday night into its first trip to an NCAA Super Regional in three seasons.
Using the home-field advantage and a wealth of postseason experience, the Gamecocks rolled to a 10-2 victory against Virginia Tech in the regional championship game before a crowd of 6,233 at Carolina Stadium.
USC takes care of its business - Ron Morris, The State
Winning the Columbia Regional over the weekend was all about taking care of business for the South Carolina baseball team.
"When we came back from the (SEC) tournament, that was the only thing I had on my mind," coach Ray Tanner said. "We've got to get back to who we are."
Gamecocks use six-run sixth to capture Columbia Regional - Phil Stanton, CollegeBaseballInsider.com
They came from behind in all three regional wins.
Jackie Bradley Jr. had a three-run homer to cap a six-run sixth as top-seeded South Carolina defeated second-seeded Virginia Tech 10-2 on Sunday evening to win the Columbia Regional in front of 6,233 fans at Carolina Stadium.
Virginia Tech's stay in NCAA Tournament ends - Darryl Slater, Richmond Times-Dispatch
For five innings, Virginia Tech's landmark season seemed like it might continue for one more thrilling night. The Hokies over the past three months made baseball matter again in Blacksburg, and they looked every bit like a legitimate team for five innings last night against a perennial power.
Then came the sixth, when it all fell apart. South Carolina scored six runs and cruised to a 10-2 win that eliminated the Hokies from the NCAA tournament and advanced the Gamecocks to the super regionals.
5,660 - Average attendance per game
88 - Average temperature
360 - Baseballs used
204 - Minutes of weather delay
108 - Student-athletes
82 - Strikeouts
17 - Home Runs
127 - Hits
78 - Runs scored
4 - Total teams
1 - Champion: South Carolina
With runners at the corners with two outs, Scott Wingo hit an 0-2 pitch up the middle to score Christian Walker from third and put the Gamecocks ahead for good. South Carolina got three more hits, including a three-run homer by Jackie Bradley, Jr. to score six runs in the sixth inning and send the Gamecocks on their way to the Super Regional.
"We've come from behind in all three games," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "We've had some guys come up with some clutch hits."
Timely hitting has been the theme all weekend for the Gamecocks. In innings one through five, South Carolina scored just five runs in all three games combined. In innings six through nine, the Gamecocks scored 23 times.
"Their two-out hits were the difference tonight," said Virginia Tech head coach Pete Hughes. "When you're putting the ball in play, good things can happen."
After scoring a single run in 21 innings at the SEC Tournament last week, the potency of the South Carolina offense was being called into question.
"When we came back from the tournament, that was the only thing that was on my mind. We got to get back to who we are," said Tanner. "We got stuffed a bit against Florida and in the tournament and we were trying to get back to who we are - getting some two-out hits, scoring runs and supporting our pitching staff."
So, is the "slump" over?
"Double digits every single game in runs and hits? I think it's pretty much over," said Bradley. "We've still got to work hard though."
Mata Shuts It Down
Gamecock reliever Jose Mata was true to his intro song (Pitbull's "Shut it Down") on Sunday night. The junior went 4.1 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out five (a career high) against the Hokies.
"We are familiar with that style of pitching, but we didn't make adjustments," said Hughes. "He located and he was the difference. He kept putting up zeroes."
"I just went out and tried to find the zone and get ahead of hitters as much as I can," said Mata.
Morales Named Most Outstanding Player
Hitting 7-for-14 with three HR and 7 RBI, Adrian Morales earned a spot on the regional's All-Tournament team and the Most Outstanding Player award.
"He turned it up a notch," said Tanner. "He assumes responsibility when things are going well. He was very good in practice this week."
Kyle Enders, Evan Marzilli, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Brady Thomas and Blake Cooper were also named to the All-Tournament team.
Gamecocks Must Play Waiting Game
South Carolina must wait to find out its next opponent as well as the destination. Coastal Carolina forced a second title game on Monday against the College of Charleston with a 8-7 win tonight.
The two teams will play to decide the Myrtle Beach Regional at 1 p.m. on Monday. If Coastal Carolina wins, the Gamecocks will head to Myrtle Beach this weekend. A win by College of Charleston would likely give South Carolina its first chance to host a Super Regional since 2004.
A South Carolina win in the 7 p.m. game would secure the regional championship for the Gamecocks and advance them to the Super Regional.
Tickets can be purchased at the Carolina Stadium Box Office or online here on GamecocksOnline.com. Tickets are $10 for adult and youth.
He can totally shred on an ax.
He can hit for power (example: his crucial two-run blast against Bucknell last night).
He can hit in the clutch (tonight's two-run base hit off Citadel ace Asher Wojciechowski).
With runners at second and third base, head coach Ray Tanner elected to pinch-hit Marzilli for left fielder Adam Matthews. The SEC All-Freshman selection battled Wojciechowski before hitting a 3-2 breaking ball to center field, tying the score at 4-4 in the seventh inning.
"I was just able to get a hold of a ball and get some work done for my team," said Marzilli.
"I didn't make a good pitch and he was able to do something with it," said Wojciechowski.
"To ask him in go in that situation I put him in was very difficult," said Tanner. "The fact that [Wojciechowski] got two strikes on him, took a pitch, fouled another one off and was able to hit a breaking ball into the outfield to tie the game up was impressive."
Coop Comes Through
At last night's post-game press conference, Tanner stated that Cooper would be the underdog tonight when he faced off against future first-rounder Wojciechowski.
"It will be familiar territory for Blake Cooper," said Tanner.
But after yet another performance where the senior out-dueled a highly-rated pitcher, it was the underdog who came out on top for his 11th win of the season.
"He's battled with the best and he's been special for us this season," said Tanner.
Cooper pitched seven innings, allowing no earned runs and setting a career high for strikeouts with twelve. Aside from three wild pitches and a throwing error that kept innings alive for The Citadel and helped them plate four runs, the right hander was in control for most of the night.
"His slider was so tight and our guys couldn't pick it up," said Jordan. "He carved us up. He wobbled a bit in the fifth, but he bounced right back. His performance was impressive."
"I felt like my off-speed stuff was good and I had good command of my curveball and slider," said Cooper.
Tanner says Cooper's ability to throw four quality pitches for strikes is what makes him so effective.
"He's got a 2-seamer, a slider, a curve and a change-up. He's a four-pitch guy - people know that and they have to respect that," he said.
After coming into the weekend batting just 2-for-20, junior Adrian Morales has erased any lingering doubts of a slump after his performance so far. The infielder finished a triple shy of the cycle tonight, batting 3-for-4 with three RBI. For the weekend, Morales is 6-for-9 with six RBI and two home runs.
"He likes to win. He's only been here a year, but he feels very accountable when things are going well," said Tanner. "He'll compete for you. His intensity at practice was as good as anybody's this week. He's a guy that likes being in there. You stick with those guys."
One Win Away
The Gamecocks will play tomorrow at 7 p.m. against the winner of the Virginia Tech-Citadel game at 2 p.m. Tanner said senior Jay Brown is likely to start. A win on Sunday evening would clinch the regional for South Carolina and propel them to the Super Regional.
Approximately 1,000 bleacher and reserved seats are available for tomorrow's game as well as 1,500 standing room only tickets. Tickets can be purchased at the Carolina Stadium Box Office (opens at 12:30 p.m.) or online now by clicking here.
"It was a survive and advance situation," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "Our guys just kept plugging and kept fighting."
Consider that you have to go all the way back to 1983 for the last time South Carolina lost the opening game of an NCAA Regional (an 8-4 loss to James Madison in Chapel Hill). That's eighteen consecutive wins in the opener.
Bucknell certainly tested that streak as the Bison jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the 6th inning. The Gamecock offense, still mired in its postseason slump, had left eight runners stranded and had left many of the faithful doubting things would turn around.
"College baseball, like a lot of other amateur sports, is about emotion and it gets you after a while," said Tanner. "I was thinking, 'we've been here, we're going to come out, but we've got to come out in a hurry.''
Sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. said players continued to stay positive that the team was due to break out.
"We were battling and something had to give and we just tried to stay aggressive," he said. "We knew we needed just one thing to break us open."
That one thing came in the bottom of the sixth inning when shortshop Bobby Haney singled with two outs. Freshman outfielder Evan Marzilli, making a surprise start in the leadoff spot, homered to right field to cut Bucknell's lead to 5-3.
"That's a lot different when you've got the tying run in the on-deck circle. That changes the entire complexion of the game," said Tanner. "You're within striking distance at that point."
South Carolina scratched together another run in the 7th inning, thanks to bunt singles by Adam Matthews and Scott Wingo.
"[The bunt singles] changed the momentum in the seventh inning. It really got the crowd back into it," said Bucknell head coach Gene DePew.
Whit Merrifield opened the eighth inning with a walk and Bradley homered South Carolina into the lead with a high fly that just barely left the park.
"I wasn't sure his ball was going to get out. One of the grounds crew guys told me it didn't even make the first row - it just scraped the wall," said Tanner.
"At first, I didn't think it was gone, but once it reached its peak, I knew it was gone," said Bradley.
Morales added some extra insurance later in the inning with a three-run blast to left field to help secure the win.
Another notable performance that was key to South Carolina's comeback was Michael Roth's 3.1 perfect innings of work at the end of the game. Roth struck out four to keep the Gamecocks in position.
"We got a great relief appearance from Roth," said Tanner. "He held them and gave us a chance."
After surviving Friday's challenge, the Gamecocks advance to play one of the hottest teams in the country - The Citadel. Currently on a 13-game winning streak after defeating Virginia Tech 7-2 in Game 1 of the Columbia Regional, the Bulldogs will throw Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year and probable first-round MLB draft pick Asher Wojciechowski.
"He's right up there with the best guys in the SEC and he's been phenomenal for The Citadel," said Tanner. "We'll have to have our A game tomorrow to be in good shape."
Senior Blake Cooper will square off against Wojciechowski in a situation that's all too familiar for the right-hander.
"[Cooper will] have to be at his best," said Tanner. "He's matched up against the best in our league. He's been the underdog and he's back out there tomorrow where he's the underdog again. It's familiar territory for Blake Cooper."
Record: 25-33 (8-12 in the Southern Conference)
How They Got Here: Patriot League Tournament Champions (first tournament appearance since 2008)
Batting Average - .313
Home Runs - 72
Runs Scored - 380
ERA - 6.10
Strikeouts - 299
Opp. Batting Average - .312
Who to Know
1B Doug Shribman - .364 batting average, 20 HR, 60 RBI
-Hit 7 HR in Patriot League Tournament
-Program's all-time leader in home runs
RF Andrew Brouse - .368 batting average, 17 HR, 52 RBI
-Patriot League Player of the Year
-Ranks 2nd in program's all-time home run rankings
Record: 42-20 (24-6 in the Southern Conference)
How They Got Here: Southern Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions (first tournament appearance since 2004)
Batting Average - .299
Home Runs - 57
Runs Scored - 411
ERA - 4.55
Strikeouts - 485
Opp. Batting Average - .274
Who to Know
P Asher Wojchiechowski - 12-2, 3.25 ERA, 144 SO, Opp. BA .228
-Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year - league's only 10-game winner
-Projected as a high draft pick in next week's MLB Draft
-Semifinalist for USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award
2B Bryan Altman - .329 batting average, 13 HR, 66 RBI
-4th player in The Citadel history to record 300 career hits
-Named second team All-Southern Conference
Rule number one for any giant-killer in sports is to catch the giant off guard. Bucknell might have blown its cover heading into the NCAA regional in Columbia this weekend.
The small school of 3,500 students in Lewisburg, Pa., sent up a couple of flares recently in postseason play with an upset of Kansas in basketball in 2005 and one of Florida State in baseball two years ago.
Second-guessing a manager or coach is as much a part of baseball as booing an umpire after a close call. It is an integral part of what makes the game fan-friendly. Just about every decision made in a dugout is there for questioning by knowledgeable -- OK, the ignorant ones, too -- fans in the stands.
There are exceptions, though. Ray Tanner's decision to start right-hander Sam Dyson in tonight's NCAA baseball regional opener against Bucknell is one of those exceptions.
You have to go with Tanner on this one.
Record: 38-20 (16-14 in the Atlantic Coast Conference)
How They Got Here: At-Large Selection (first tournament appearance since 2000)
Batting Average - .322
Home Runs - 76
Runs Scored - 460
ERA - 4.67
Strikeouts - 504
Opp. Batting Average - .261
Who to Know
RF Austin Wates - .373 batting average, 8 HR, 51 RBI
-The first Hokie ever named to the first-team All-ACC team, ranking ninth in the ACC in batting average
-Had a team-high on-base percentage of .480
C Steve Domecus - .371, 12 HR, 58 RBI
-Named All-ACC for second consecutive season (second team), leading the Hokies and ranking eighth in the ACC in batting average
-Five hits away from breaking the school record for hits in a season
P Justin Wright - 8-4, 3.59 ERA, 95 SO
-Struck out 15 batters in a complete game win over Georgia Tech in first round of ACC Tournament, earning National Player of the Week Honors
"I was about as unhappy as you can be," he said. "I was agitated and aggravated and I might have taken it out on them a bit."
Tanner and the coaching staff challenged the Gamecocks over the last week, working out the team twice a day.
"They rolled up their sleeves and they got to work," he said. "We challenged them offensively more than anything else. We just hope we play some really good baseball this weekend."
"We came back in a positive way, practiced two times a day all week and got some positive things from it," said pitcher Blake Cooper. "I feel like we'll have some momentum going into the regional."
"We practiced and worked on swings, focused on staying aggressive," said outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. "Our bats are going to pick up - we've been down a bit the last few games, but that's baseball."
Dyson Gets the Nod
Sam Dyson will start for the Gamecocks on Friday against Bucknell with senior Blake Cooper expected to start on Saturday. Dyson was 5-5 this season with a 3.92 ERA in 14 starts. The junior struck out 86 batters and walked just 17. Opposing hitters are batting .245 against Dyson.
Tanner elected to go with Dyson for the Friday start because of his ability to return quicker from a start.
"[Cooper and Dyson] are two of the most well-conditioned pitchers I've had on the same team at one time, but Sam's probably in a better position to come back in a relief situation if we need him on Monday."
Expect to See Marzilli
In an effort to shake up the lineup and potentially generate some additional offense, expect to see freshman outfielder Evan Marzilli on Friday against Bucknell. The SEC All-Freshman selection has impressed Tanner with his approach at this point in the season.
"I like what he brings right now," said Tanner. "I'm not thinking he's a freshman anymore - he's gained experience and now that he's gone through a season, he's been more comfortable."
Marzilli is 17-for-48 (.354) this season with 2 HR and 6 RBI. He also has five stolen bases.
Good to Be Home
Since 2000, South Carolina has hosted an NCAA Regional five times and won all five with an overall record of 16-2.
"It will help to be playing at home this year - we know that our fans will be behind us," said Cooper. "It's much easier to play at home."
"It's been fun to be hosting again and the opportunity to be at home has been exciting," said Tanner.
Rogers has the Gamecocks as the favorite in the regional - here's what he has to say about South Carolina:
The Gamecocks should win this regional if their offense decides to show up. South Carolina coach Ray Tanner wasn't very pleased with the fact his offense didn't do much in the SEC tournament last week. It'll be interesting to see which offense shows up this weekend. The Gamecocks enter the postseason with a .299 batting average. Jackie Bradley Jr. (.372,9,43) and Whit Merrifield (.329,12,36) are the key offensive cogs to watch. On the mound, the Gamecocks have been a pleasant surprise this season and enter the weekend with a 3.62 ERA. Cooper leads the charge on the mound, but also keep an eye on Sam Dyson (3.92,82 2/3 IP) and relievers Michael Roth and Matt Price.
The Gamecocks will open play in the Columbia Regional against Bucknell on Friday at 7 p.m. A win in that game would mean South Carolina would play at 7 p.m. on Saturday against the winner of the The Citadel - Virginia Tech game. A win in that game would put the Gamecocks in the 7 p.m. on Sunday with a chance to clinch the regional and progress to the Super Regional.
To stay updated on game times for the regional, visit the Columbia Regional Tournament Central page here. For a look at the entire tournament field, check out the NCAA's live bracket here.
How can I buy tickets?
Individual game tickets for the regional will go on sale Friday morning at 10 a.m. at the Carolina Stadium Box Office. Tickets are $10 for adult reserved and general admission and $10 for faculty/staff/students/youth. Individual ticket sales for Saturday's games will begin at 12:30 p.m. The stadium will be cleared out at the conclusion of each game.
Parking passes from the 2010 baseball season will be honored during regional play this weekend. The stadium lots open three hours before each game while the business-owned lots (Lots 7,9,10) will not open until after 5 p.m.
Parking Lot B near the Carolina Coliseum will be reserved for shuttle service during the weekend. Shuttle service will begin at noon for the 2 p.m. game and at 5 p.m. for the 7 p.m. game. The shuttle is $2 per person round trip.