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.
10. Scott Wingo ties the game.
Florida starter Hudson Randall was putting on a pitching clinic in game one of the championship series. Through 7 2/3 innings Randall was well on his way to giving the Gators a big advantage in series with a game one win. Randall had given up just two hits - only one since the first inning - had struck out six, and walked only one. That one was Peter Mooney, who stood at third base after being sacrificed to second by Robert Beary and moved to third on flyout by Evan Marzilli.
In stepped Wingo, who had struggled mightily to that point. Wingo was 0-for-3 and had struck out twice against Randall.
They've nicknamed him Captain Clutch for a reason.
With two strikes on him, Wingo hit a breaking ball back up the middle that Randall would tell you he should have snagged. He didn't and the ball squeezed its way into centerfield as second baseman Josh Adams narrowly missed.
"He had my number all night," Wingo said after the game. "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."
That ended the night for Randall and gave the Gamecocks new life.
9. Wingo walks it off
In what seems like ages ago, Carolina opened up the 2011 CWS against Texas A&M. After an early error and bases-clearing triple by Brandon Wood led to four A&M runs in the first inning, it appeared the Gamecocks would be facing an uphill battle all night and could find themselves in loser's bracket on day one as it had every year Ray Tanner brought his club to Omaha.
A&M returned the favor in the bottom of the first, allowing four Gamecock runs to tie the game. From there it turned into a pitcher's battle between Michael Roth and Ross Strippling. When Strippling left the game after eight, A&M's hope of a victory quickly vanished.
Robert Beary led off the ninth with a double that was nearly a walk-off homerun, and Jackie Bradley Jr. - making his first appearance since suffering a severe wrist injury - laced a single into left. Marzilli walked to load the bases for Captain Clutch.
With five infielders and two outfielders, Wingo hit a blast that would have won the game regardless and the Gamecocks were off and running.
"I know I needed to come up big there and I just tried to go out there and put a good swing on it. I took that first pitch," Wingo said. "I was mad at myself, I could have drove that pretty well. When I had two strikes, I went out there and battled."
Walk-off - and battle for that matter - would become a theme in the CWS for the Gamecocks.
8. Roth the ace.
It was a year ago that Michael Roth burst onto the national stage. His magnificent performance against arch-rival Clemson in a must-win game was magical. Coupled with Roth's magnificent 2011 season and the Gamecocks' return to Omaha, there were billboards and banners all over Omaha with Roth's image on it.
Once in Omaha Roth didn't disappoint. Despite giving up four runs in the first inning against Texas A&M in the opener, none were earned. From there Roth was stellar. The junior lefty went 7.1 innings and didn't give up an earned run his entire outing. Despite not getting a decison in the 5-4 win, Roth showed exactly why he was one of the top pitchers in the nation.
Roth returned to action against Virginia with a chance to reach the championship series. Roth gave up his first earned run in what seemed like ages in the second inning, but settled down in typical Roth fashion. Though he didn't get the win yet again, Roth kept the Gamecocks in a position to win, which they eventually did in the 13th inning.
It was in Roth's final appearance that he finally got a win. Roth was brilliant, going 7.2 innings with only one mistake. That mistake was a pitch up in the zone that Florida's Mike Zunino sent out of the park. Still, the Gamecocks had a comfortable 3-1 lead and Roth was in position to go down as the greatest pitcher in CWS history. Roth allowed another Zunino hit prior to exiting the game and John Taylor was unable to keep him from scoring. Still, Roth currently has 1.17 ERA that ranks him second all-time among pitchers with more than 30 innings pitched at the CWS.
For the series, Roth was 1-0, pitching 22 innings and giving up just three earned runs. Who knows? Roth may have a chance to do it all again.
7. Matthews' golden run.
In what will go down as one of the greatest games in CWS history, the ending may not have been the most fitting end, but it worked for Carolina. After wiggling out of back-to-back bases loaded jams in the 12th and 13th innings, the time was now for the Gamecocks. There's not but so many times you can get out of those situations unscathed, right?
Brady Thomas got things going with a lead-off single before being replaced by Adam Matthews at first. Peter Mooney's mission was simple; advance the runner. Virginia pitcher Cody Winiarski tried to cut down Matthews at second, but his throw was off the mark and everyone was safe. That made Beary's goal even more simple; advance the runners. Beary laid down the bunt and again Winiarski tried to throw out Matthews. The ball bounced off the shin of third baseman Steven Proscia and Matthews trotted home to send the Gamecocks to the CWS Finals.
6. The Price is right
You could say a million things about this kid and his talent, heart and determination. But there's one thing in particular to focus on that sums it all up about Matt Price. In the marathon game with Virginia, Price came on with one out in the seventh inning. You're thinking he'll go to the ninth or maybe tenth at the most. Next thing you know, you're looking up at the scoreboard and you're in the 13th inning and Price is still in the game. You have to do what it takes to win, even if it means your closer throwing 95 pitches. It worked out for the Gamecocks on that day.
Florida, on the other hand, had to be thrilled. Not only was ace Michael Roth going to be available for game one of the championship series, there was just no way Price would be available after throwing that many pitches on two days rest. Right?
After Wingo tied the game in the eighth, Gamecock fans had to being to wonder. Would Tanner allow Price to pitch an inning if the Gamecocks grabbed the lead? There's just no way, plus you haven't even used John Taylor yet. As Tyler Webb finished off the eighth and Taylor entered in the ninth, you wondered how far could Taylor take you? Steven Neff is the only other option. Taylor somehow gets through the ninth (more on that later), and manages to do the same in the 10th (more on that to come as well), but then the Gamecocks score in the top of the 11th. Do you stick with Taylor or do you go with Neff? Neither. Almost simultaneously as Walker stepped on home plate, Price is on the mound in the bullpen getting lose. You've got to be kidding me?
He wasn't kidding.
Price came in and, despite giving up a lead-off single, shut the door and broke the will of the Florida Gators.
Tomorrow we'll look at the top five moments of the Gamecocks' National Championship run.
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