Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gamecocks walk off with first title, beat UCLA 2-1


An often-mentioned fact coming into the College World Series finals was that UCLA, owner of 106 NCAA team national championships, was seeking its first in baseball.

So was South Carolina. And after winning, the Gamecocks claimed not just their first baseball title – but their first in any NCAA men’s sport.

Junior Whit Merrifield knocked in Scott Wingo with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Gamecocks a 2-1 victory over the Bruins in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday.

Closer Matt Price pitched 2 2-3 innings, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth inning, to get the win and outduel UCLA closer Dan Klein.

Forced into the loser’s bracket after dropping their first game of the College World Series, South Carolina (54-16) became the first team to win six straight games in a CWS and the third team to win six total in a series.

South Carolina’s Jackie Bradley Jr. was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, despite going 0-for-5, ending his 22-game hitting streak.

With the score tied at 1 in the 11th, the Gamecocks put together the rally that won them their first national title. Wingo reached on a leadoff free pass, moved to second base on a passed ball on UCLA catcher Steve Rodriguez and took third on Evan Marzilli’s excellent bunt.

Merrifield did the rest from there, lacing Klein’s 2-0 offering into right field to easily score Wingo.

Facing elimination after dropping Game 1 7-1 Monday, the Bruins (51-17) drew first blood in the fifth inning. Freshman Trevor Brown led off with an infield single, Rodriguez bunted him to second and Niko Gallego singled to left-center to drive Brown in.

South Carolina got a little help from the UCLA defense to tie the game in the eighth. After pinch hitter Brady Thomas singled and Robert Beary came on to pinch run, Bobby Haney’s grounder to the right side got through Bruins first baseman Dean Espy’s glove, allowing Beary to score.

Gamecocks starter Michael Roth worked five innings, allowing one run. UCLA’s Rob Rasmussen held Carolina scoreless over six frames.

Price (5-1) allowed one hit and one walk.

Haney and Marzilli each went 2-for-5.

Brown, Beau Amaral and Brett Krill had two-hit nights for UCLA.

Klein (6-1) allowed one hit and one run, with two walks and four strikeouts over 3 1-3 innings.

It was the last CWS game at Rosenblatt Stadium. Next year’s series will be held at the new TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

NOTES: South Carolina’s only other team national title came in women’s track and field in 2002. … Oregon State in 2006 and Holy Cross in 1952 also won six games at the CWS. … After committing his eighth-inning error, Espy punched the wooden dugout bench in frustration and then left the game, later icing his right hand. No word was immediately available on the extent of his presumed injury. … This series marked the fifth time since 1970 two teams seeking their first title were playing in the final game. The last time was in 2006, when Oregon State defeated North Carolina. … The Gamecocks are the first national champion to lose their first CWS game since the Beavers in 2006. … Rodriguez drew a ninth-inning walk – the South Carolina staff’s first free pass in 18 innings.


Photo above: South Carolina's Whit Merrifield (5) celebrates his game-winning single Tuesday night. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Video credit – ESPN

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