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.
5. How'd they do that?
Matt Price is entering his ffith inning of work. He's well beyond a season-high in pitches and was starting to lose some of his 'stuff.' The Gamecocks had just gotten out of a bases loaded jam with a 6-4-3 double play in the 12th. A walk, and infield single, and a bunt single later, Virginia has the bases loaded and no outs and were ready to force a third match-up between the two teams. Carolina wasn't having any of that. Price struck out leadoff batter Chris Taylor on a 2-2 pitch. The very next pitch, John Barr lined one right to Scott Wingo at second, who then flipped it to Peter Mooney covering second for a double play to end the inning.
"Obviously South Carolina has got something very, very special going on right now," Virginia head coach John O'Connor said after the game.
"We didn't want to play the next inning, honestly," Gamecock starting pitcher Michael Roth said. "We were dying to get out of there. We definitely did not want to carry that into tomorrow."
Carolina would not need another inning, winning it in the bottom of the 13th to advance to the CWS Finals.
4. Walkers winning run.
Normally the roles are reversed. Normally, it's Adam Matthews stealing second with Christian Walker at the plate. But this wasn't a normal team, and this surely wasn't a normal CWS. With game one hanging perilously in the balance and a depleted bullpen, Carolina head coach Ray Tanner had to do something drastic.
Walker, who wasn't even supposed to be playing after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand, had singled for his second hit of the night to lead of the 11th inning. With Matthews batting after pinch-running for Brady Thomas earlier, Tanner gave Walker the sign to steal. Walker took off for second, sliding in head-first with the injured hand. It would have been a close play had Florida catcher Mike Zunino not thrown the ball into centerfield. But he did and Walker quickly raced for third. Centerfielder Bryson Smith came up throwing, but his throw short-hopped third baseman Cody Dent and bounced into the stands allowing Walker to trot home with the winning run.
3. Gunning him down.
South Carolina had just worked out of a miraculous bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth in game one of the CWS Finals against Florida. They found themselves in more trouble in the bottom of the 10th. With Cody Dent on second and two outs and Preston Tucker at bat, Ray Tanner used some unconventional wisdom.
Tanner chose to intentionally walk Tucker to get to Mike Zunino, the SEC Player of the Year. Why would you intentionally walk to get to your conference's best player? Because up to that point Zunino was just 2-for-15 in the CWS. Every good hitter will tell you that it just means their due.
Zunino was due.
Zunino laced a single into leftfield that was going to score the winning run and put the Gators one win away from winning the school's first National Championship in baseball.
Jake Williams had other plans.
Fortunately for Williams and the Gamecocks, the ball was hit sharply right at him. Charging in and fielding the ball quickly, Williams unloaded towards home plate as Dent rounded third. The throw was slightly off-target, narrowly missing Dent, but Robert Beary made the catch and lunged toward Dent, tagging him five feet from reaching the plate to end the inning.
"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."
2. This is our 'Battle' cry.
In what began as a word thrown around here and there by Coach Tanner and a few of the players. By the end of the season it started to become a regular word in interviews among coaches and players alike. The media began cracking jokes and making light of the word.
It became much more.
Tied 1-1 in the sixth inning of the Regional opener against Georgia Southern, an Adrian Morales single scored Christian Walker and the Gamecocks held on to a 2-1 victory.
Trailing 2-0 in game two of the Super Regionals against UConn, the Gamecocks slowly began chipping away. The Gamecocks got on the board in the fourth and tied it in the sixth. Walker launched one over the leftfield wall in the eighth - very similar to his bomb that beat Coastal in the 2010 Super Regionals - gave the Gamecocks their first lead of the game. Carolina exploded for five in the ninth to win with ease.
After giving up four unearned runs in the first inning of the CWS opener against Texas A&M, Carolina quickly 'battled' back in their half of the first. Michael Roth held the Aggies in check, and John Taylor and Matt Price kept the Aggies from scoring, setting up Scott Wingo's walkoff in the ninth.
After taking a 2-1 lead over Virginia, a Peter Mooney error in the eighth allowed the Cavs to tie the game, setting up a marathon finish. Price pitched 5.2 innings in relief to win the game, and back-to-back Virginia errors on bunts allowed Adam Matthews to score the winning run.
Trailing 1-0 late in the game against Hudson Randall - who shut the Gamecocks out earlier in the year - in game one of the CWS finals. Scott Wingo - who had struck out twice against Randall - hit one up the middle that got through the infield and tied the game. Three innings later, Christian Walker stole second and scored off two fielding errors.
There's a reason why the coaches and players struggle for words to say when talking about this team. There's only one word you can use.
1. They did it again.
Is there any doubt what the number one play is? Two days after Virginia failed to score after loading the bases with nobody out, Florida faced the same situation. This time, it was do or die for the Gamecocks in the bottom of the ninth. With the infield in, Tyler Thompson hit one up the middle. Scott Wingo made a diving stop, popped to his feet, unloaded a throw to home that short-hopped Robert Beary - narrowly missing Beary's mask - to force out Mike Zunino at home.
Daniel Pigott came up next, but he made on of the biggest mistakes he could have made - hitting it back to Captain Clutch. Wingo fired home for the out, and Beary threw Pigott out at first for a double-play to end the inning.
Florida went from knowing they were going to take a 1-0 lead in the series to having to play the 10th inning, and the rest is history.
10. Scott Wingo ties game one versus Florida.
9. Wingo's walkoff defeates Texas A&M
8. Roth lives up to the hype in Omaha
7. Matthew's run advances Carolina to the CWS Finals.
6. Matt Price dominates.
5. Carolina gets out of bases loaded jam with no outs against Virginia.
4. Walker's run beats Florida in game one.
3. Williams hoses runner at home.
1. Carolina again gets out of bases loaded jam with no outs against Florida.
CWS Top 10 moments - 5-1
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