With all the South Carolina baseball accomplished in the 2011 College World Series it's difficult to determine the Top 10 moments in the five victories that led the Gamecocks to the championship in back-to-back years. From clutch hits to clutch pitches, double-plays to walkoffs, diving stops to spectacular throws, overcoming injuries to a new 'battle' cry, the road to the championship was nothing short of special. GamecockAnthem attempts to rank the top ten moments of this CWS championship.
Today we look at the moments that didn't quite crack the top ten, but still deserved to be mentioned.
All season South Carolina had to battle injuries. At one point its entire starting outfield was out with injuries. Adrian Morales played nearly the entire season with a hurt wrist that undoubtedly led to a drop in hitting after leading the team the early part of the season. Brady Thomas battled the last month of the season with an injury and did not play catcher the entire CWS.
Two injuries played a key role in particular in the CWS. Jackie Bradley Jr had not played since leaving in the sixth inning on April 23rd in Starkville, Mississippi. Though most felt he would not be able to play, Bradley returned to the line-up in the opening game of the CWS against Texas A&M. Bradley laced a single in the ninth inning rally that eventually ended on a Scott Wingo walk-off single.
The other injury occurred in Christian Walker's last swing of the deciding game against Virginia that sent the Gamecocks to the Finals. Walker broke his hamate bone in his left hand on that final swing. There was no way he could play in game one of the Finals. That is until he took his first swing of batting practice. Walker sent the ball into the stands and was soon put in the starting line-up.
In his first at-bat, Walker laced one down the rightfield line for a two-out double, but it was his final at-bat that made the biggest impact. After a one-out single in the 11th inning, Walker stole second sliding in head first with the injured hand fully exposed. As everyone knows, the throw went into centerfield and Walker scored on the second error of the play to win the game.
"I knew it was going to take a lot of pain specifically for me not to play," said Walker. I can't say enough about Brainard Cooper and Dr. Walsh and Dr. Mazoue, and everybody at Methodist Hospital for doing everything they did. And you know, for the last half of yesterday, I think I didn't think I was going to be able to play. But you know, they came out and really - I mean I'm speechless about it. They did a great job. I can't thank them enough."
After a season plagued by injuries, it's only fitting that a player comes back two days after breaking a bone in his hand and score the winning run.
Pitch, Forrest, Pitch.
There are many things that will be remembered about the game one victory in the CWS Finals. Scott Wingo's game-tying single in the eighth, John Taylor somehow surviving the ninth, Jake William's throw in the 10th, and Walker's game-winning run in the 11th are some that Gamecock fans will never forget.
But how can you forget who helped get you there?
True freshman Forrest Koumas, pitching for the first time since June 5th against Stetson, was faced with the task of going up against one of the best pitchers in the league, Florida's Hudson Randall. Koumas went toe-to-toe with one of the game's best, giving up just one run on a sacrifice fly in the third inning. Koumas went 5.2 innings, giving up just three hits against a potent Gator offense, walking one, and striking out four.
"Coach Meyers just told me to stick to what I've been doing, hitting the spots and let the defense play behind me," said Koumas.
That's what Koumas did and - even though he didn't get a decision - he played an important role in the game one win.
John Taylor was one of only two pitchers (Matt Price being the other) that threw in every game of the CWS for Carolina. The senior submarine pitcher played the role of set-up man to perfection, pitching 7.2 innings, earning wins against Virginia and Florida, four hits, four walks (two intentional), one strikeout, and one unearned run.
That is a fitting end for a player who has appeared in more games than any other Gamecock pitcher this season.
Carolina thought it had broke an NCAA record for consecutive post-season wins at 15 with its 2-1 victory over Florida in game one of the CWS Finals. However, Texas went back in their history and showed that they had won 15 consecutive games as well.
That meant the Gamecocks entered game two of the Finals with a chance to break that record, as well as consecutive wins in Omaha. The Gamecocks did both with a 5-2 victory over the Gators to capture it's second straight NCAA National Championship. It's 16-game winning streak in NCAA Tournament games is now a record, as well as its 11-game winning streak in Omaha. The Gamecocks have not lost an NCAA Tournament game since opening last season's CWS with a 4-3 loss to Oklahoma.
NCAA record 16 consecutive victories
Arizona State 11-4
2010 CWS Finals
2011 Columbia Regional
Georgia Southern 2-1
2011 Columbia Super Regional
Texas A&M 5-4
Virginia 3-2 (13)
2011 CWS Finals
Florida 2-1 (11)
Anytime the hometown favorite Nebraska Cornhuskers fail to make the College World Series, the local fans adopt one of the eight teams as 'their' team for the CWS. With last season's record-breaking run of six consecutive wins in a single CWS, Omaha fans quickly adopted the Gamecocks as their team. Returning this season, some wondered if the fans would cheer against the Gamecocks.
That couldn't have been farther from the truth and it was never more evident than in the CWS Finals. Fans wrapped around TD Ameritrade Park for general admission tickets, many clad in the Garnet and Black. While there were many that made the 20+ hour trip from South Carolina, most were locals.
That led ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee to throw the Gamecocks into a group that included Miami and LSU from the 80's and 90's, as well as Cal State Fullerton, another Omaha favorite. When you're thrown into that category in college baseball, you have arrived.
CWS Top 10 moments - honorable mention
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