Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE
OMAHA, Neb. -- Several new faces helped contribute to a familiar result as South Carolina defeated Florida 7-3 Saturday night in the Gamecocks' College World Series opener. Designated hitter Erik Payne delivered a three-RBI triple to put Carolina up in the fifth and the Gamecocks never looked back as Michael Roth earned the win and Matt Price the save.
It was a familiar result Saturday night as No. 8 South Carolina defeated No. 1 Florida 7-3 in the Gamecocks' College World Series opener and extended their own record 22 straight NCAA Tournament wins.
The Gamecocks are accustomed to winning in Omaha and they did it in much the same fashion they have many times before with strong pitching, big plays on defense and key hits.
But as much as it was the same, there was plenty different as the 2012 Gamecocks continue their quest to do what the last two South Carolina teams have done.
Sure, there was a classic Michael Roth start. The senior ace improved to 8-1 on the season after giving up seven hits and three earned runs in 6.1 innings. There was a vintage Matt Price save. He set the SEC all-time record (42) with his two scoreless innings. And a two-hit night from Christian Walker and a diving catch from Evan Marzilli to go along with two its of his own.
But with the bases loaded in the fifth and the Gamecocks down 2-0 and trying to find a way to break through against Florida starter Brian Johnson, it wasn't one of head coach Ray Tanner's trusted veterans at the plate.
It was sophomore designated hitter Erik Payne's turn to add his name to the ongoing story of the Gamecocks' current postseason run.
Payne drove a 2-2 fastball into right center that split the gap and cleared the bases giving him three RBIs and a triple -- and more importantly, his team a 3-2 lead.
"You've got to try to stay calm and
focused on what you want to do," said Payne, who was playing in his first CWS game. "You've got to
listen to your coaches, and they help keep you
calm, and you've got to focus on just hitting the ball hard and not [thinking] like 'bases loaded, we're in Omaha,' all that, you have to simplify things."
Junior third baseman LB Dantzler, also playing in his first game in Omaha, then crushed the second pitch he saw to the center field wall to put the Gamecocks up 4-2.
That chased Johnson from the game as the Gators turned to Greg Larson.
Freshman Tanner English bunted Dantzler to third before junior newcomer Chase Vergason singled to center to extend the lead to 5-2.
Dantzler, Vergason amd English had two hits a piece on the night and Payne led the team with three RBIs.
"That was huge, we needed them to [step up]," Tanner said. "Those guys that haven't been here before were able to contribute and the big hit by Payne, and Dantzler crushed that ball to center field."
The stat line may not read like a typical Roth night in Omaha, but he was still able to do what he's done every time he's faced the Gators and keep a potent Florida lineup off balance.
The Gators got to Roth and broke a 0-0 tie in the fourth when Preston Tucker's two-out knock to left froze English before flying over his head for a two-RBI double.
"Obviously, I'd like to be a little
bit better, of course," Roth said. "But you just have to go out there and grind it out and Florida's a great hitting
team. Just try to keep them off balance."
The Gators were able to respond to the Gamecocks' five-run fifth with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning on Mike Zunino's sacrifice fly to left, but they were held in check the rest of the way.
Florida's best chance to tie the game came in the seventh when Vickash Ramjit and Josh Tobias led off the inning with singles off Roth. After Nolan Fontana bunted both runners into scoring position, with Roth at 98 pitches, Tanner turned to lefty Tyler Webb.
Webb forced a Preston Tucker flyout to left that wasn't deep enough for the runner to tag. After pitching around Zunino and walking him on four pitches, Webb's fastball to starting pitcher and designated hitter Johnson was blasted to right field but directly towards Adam Matthews who jogged in and made the easy grab to end the inning.
South Carolina pulled away in the ninth when they pushed across two more runs on two Florida errors and an infield hit from English.
"South Carolina beat us in every phase of the game today," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They outpitched us. They obviously outhit us, and they played better defense.
It was just a really well played game by
After giving up just two runs in a complete game victory over Carolina in the SEC Tournament, Johnson took the loss tonight as the Gamecocks were able to get his pitch count up before getting to him in the scoreboard in the fifth. Until that point, he had been able to escape danger as Carolina stranded seven runners in the first four innings including the bases loaded in the first.
The win marks South Carolina's 12th straight at the College World Series dating back to a loss to Oklahoma in 2010.
The Gamecocks will face Arkansas Monday night at 9 ET as Colby Holmes will look to match Razorbacks starter Ryne Stanek. Carolina is just two wins away from a third straight trip to the CWS Finals.