Remembering the last time

The last time these two teams met, the result was one of the best games in Carolina baseball history.

It might be a bit of hyperbole to say the last time South Carolina and Oklahoma met on a baseball field that it resulted in the best game in South Carolina history. But the heart-stopping thriller has to at least be in the conversation.

The date was June 24 and just four days earlier the Gamecocks had lost to the same Oklahoma team 4-3 in another thriller that saw the Gamecocks load the bases in both the eighth and ninth innings but leave the tying run stranded at third. That game would be remembered for two rain delays, a constant lightning show and for continuing a different kind of streak than is being talked about this week -- it was the Gamecocks' seventh straight loss in a College World Series opener.

They haven't lost in the postseason since.

After sending Arizona State home with an offensive onslaught of 11 runs on 14 hits, the stage was set as ace pitcher Blake Cooper started against the Sooners for the second straight time.

Pitching on three-days rest for the first time in his career, Cooper didn't have his best stuff but gutted out 5.2 innings and gave up just four hits and a second-inning run.


(Crystal LoGiudice-USPRESSWIRE)
For much of the game that one run appeared it might be enough for the Sooners to advance and eliminate the Gamecocks.

Oklahoma starter Zach Neal was exceptional in the first seven innings as he allowed just four hits and didn't allow a run.

But after an Evan Marzilli double to leadoff the eighth, Neal gave way to Jeremy Erben, who two batters later, gave up an RBI single to Christian Walker to tie the game 1-1.

Neither team would score in the next three innings as Matt Price pitched 3 shutout innings and didn't allow a hit while striking out five. Erben stayed in the game and cruised into the 12th for the Sooners.

The Gamecocks then turned to freshman right-hander Ethan Carter, who promptly surrendered a solo home run to right center off the bat of cleanup hitter Tyler Ogle to put the Gamecocks three outs away from elimination.

Carter was replaced by Tyler Webb, who held the lead at 2-1 Oklahoma.

What would come next would be the most improbable, most amazing, most special string of events to ever hit the University of South Carolina.

#Battle would become more than just an overused postgame cliche.

The true meaning of "Bayler Ball" was revealed.

And, while the Gamecocks' current 19-game post-season win streak technically began against ASU, it can be argued that the 2010 National Championship was won on this night, and the Carolina baseball we all know now, was born.


(Crystal LoGiudice-USPRESSWIRE)
Leading 2-1, Oklahoma turned to its reliable closer Ryan Duke. Leading off the inning for Carolina: Robert Beary -- not yet the hero he would become in 2011, and more of a utility player, who had stayed in the game after pinch-hitting in the seventh.

After two strikes, Beary singled to left to put the tying run on base. Beary would steal second to get into scoring position but Marzilli struck out swinging and Whit Merrifield popped out in foul territory.

With the tying run on second and two outs, Jackie Bradley, Jr. strolled to the plate, hitless in five at-bats to that point in the game. Calm, collected, Bradley, Jr. took three balls including one that came within mere inches of ending the Gamecocks' season.

Then with a full count and time seemingly flowing in slow motion, Bradley, Jr's patented swing flew through the zone as his bat connected with a two-seamer that had tailed back over the heart of the plate and redirected it past a diving first baseman and into right field. Not finished yet. Beary scored without a throw.


(Crystal LoGiudice-USPRESSWIRE)
After a Jeffery Jones walk to move Bradley, Jr. into scoring position, designated hitter Brady Thomas strolled to the plate, also with an 0-for-5 night in tow.

Brady lined the first pitch he saw -- a 91 mph fastball right down the middle -- off the pitcher's mound and into center field.

Bradley, Jr. rounded third, raced home and slid into the outstretched arms of Adrian Morales as the South Carolina dugout cleared and the Gamecocks celebrated what was then the most incredible, epic victory in South Carolina baseball history.


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