First baseman Christian Walker wasn't even on the first line-up South Carolina submitted for Monday's game-one of the College World Series finals against Florida.
But in typical Gamecock fashion, he scored the winning run in the top of the eleventh on throwing errors from the catcher and center fielder to give the Gamecocks a 2-1 victory.
South Carolina is now one win away from a second straight national title and ties the record for most NCAA tournament wins in a row with 15 (Texas).
"It's remarkable how we always managed to stay loose and stay calm in the dugout. Even going into the 10th, 11th inning against a team like Florida, we've done it all year, and hopefully we continue to do so."
That has been evident for the last two seasons but especially since the Gamecocks made it back to the College World Series this year. Two of their four Omaha wins have come in walk-off fashion.
Monday night's win wasn't a walk-off but it may have been Carolina's most dramatic act yet.
Carolina obviously got used to getting out of bases loaded jams against Virginia, when it escaped three unscathed in a 4-3 13-inning win.
That's what they faced again in the ninth inning Monday -- this time the opponent was the home team, so any run scored from that point on would mean a loss.
Reliever John Taylor came on to pitch the inning and walked SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino to start the frame. After Brian Johnson failed to get down a bunt in his first two strikes, the Florida DH ripped a two-strike pitch into right field putting runners at the corners and the winning run 90 feet away.
South Carolina intentionally walked Josh Adams to load the bases and brought the infield in.
That's when left fielder Tyler Thompson made a big at a game-winning single. But second baseman Scott Wingo dove and snared the bouncer then popped up and threw home where catcher Robert Beary played the short-hop backhanded and kept his foot on the plate.
Wingo and Beary weren't finished.
Two pitches later right fielder Daniel Pigott bounced another ball at Wingo -- he fired home to Beary who then threw to first for the threat-ending double play.
"I don't know about nine," said Wingo, asked if his team has nine lives. "Maybe seven, I don't know. But, yeah, I guess so."
The Gamecocks quickly used another of those lives in the very next inning.
Dent led off the inning with a single and was moved into scoring position on a Nolan Fontana sacrifice bunt. After a flyout and Preston Tucker intentional walk, Zunino lined a ball through the left side for what appeared to be the game-winning hit.
But left fielder Jake Williams came up throwing and nailed Dent at the plate to extend the game.
"I had one of those weird intuitions that the ball was going to get hit to me, honestly," William said, "and I was just ready to make an
accurate throw and try to get it in the air and make it have a close chance for a play. And the ball, sure enough, was hit to me, and I got a good throw on it."
None of that would have been possible if not for a clutch hit from Wingo in the top of the eighth. A Peter Mooney lead-off walk followed by a Beary sacrifice gave the Gamecocks a runner in scoring position down 1-0. But an Evan Marzilli strikeout followed by two strikes on Wingo, who had struggled at the plate in the game, put a positive Carolina outcome in doubt.
But Wingo found a way to get the bat on the ball and shoot it under the pitcher's glove and into center field to score Mooney and tie the game at 1.
my number all night," Wingo said. "And that last at bat I think I swung through two sliders, and I just said to myself: Stay late. If I get beat inside, I get beat
inside. And he threw another curveball and I was
able to hit it up the middle."
To that point, Florida starter Hudson Randall was nearly unhittable as he baffled the Carolina hitters for the better part of 7.2 innings and gave up just three hits, a walk and the one earned run.
But South Carolina's starter, freshman Forrest Koumas gave the Gamecocks a chance giving up just a third-inning earned run on three hits in 5.1 innings.
Left-hander Tyler Webb, who replaced Koumas in the sixth inning, gave the Gamecocks 2.1 scoreless inning and gave up just a hit in his first appearance of the 2011 CWS.
Taylor came on to pitch two scoreless innings and pick up the win setting the stage for Walker's game-winning run.
Walker, who nearly didn't even play with a broken bone in his hand, knocked a one-out single through the middle.
A hit-and-run with Adam Matthews at the plate sent Walker towards second as Zunino's throw went sailing over second base and into center field.
Bryson Smith's throw towards third was also wild and allowed Walker score the winning run easily.
"Mike has nothing to hang his head
about," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He's been one of our best players, if not
our best player, all year long. I know he feels
terrible about it. But that's baseball."
Closer Matt Price delivered the Gamecocks' final three outs to earn the save.
South Carolina (53-14) and Florida (53-17) square off again Tuesday night for game-two with first pitch scheduled for 8 ET.
The Gamecocks are now just one win away from becoming just the fifth team to win back-to-back national championships.
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