It couldn't go on forever.
As quickly as the Gamecocks' record 22-straight NCAA tournament wins seemingly began almost two years ago against Arizona State, it ended abruptly in Omaha Monday via a 2-1 setback from the Arkansas Razorbacks.
"It was a great run," head coach Ray Tanner said. "These guys, some are still here, and the guys that had come before, it's one of those things that you don't know if it could happen or if it will ever happen again. It's been a pretty good run.
"I'm proud of what these guys did and how they battled. But Arkansas tonight was a better team. They won, and they advanced."
It wasn't that the Gamecocks played badly -- the Hogs were just seemingly a little better in every facet.
After giving up five runs in a start against the Gamecocks earlier this year, winning pitcher Ryne Stanek held the Carolina hitters in check all night. He gave up just three hits and an earned run in 6.0 innings of work.
"He came after us again," said Evan Marzilli, who was the only USC hitter with two hits and had the team's only RBI. "Just like last time, he came after us with a good fastball, good curveball, he had good control of it. He was a great pitcher, came out, had a great game."
Carolina only struck out four times, three against Stanek, who was content with pounding the strike zone and letting a great defense play behind him.
"Stanek had four pitches working," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Talked to (pitching) coach (Dave) Jorn just a minute ago. He said it
was fun calling pitches because he had four to go
to. Wasn't just one, he had them all. He did a
"He probably could have gone another
inning, but he was getting ready to get back to those hitters again."
The Razorbacks turned to Barrett Astin who gave up just a hit in three shutout innings to earn the save.
While the game was close throughout, the Razorbacks always seemed to be a step ahead of the Gamecocks as they put pressure on losing pitcher Colby Holmes from the beginning. The leadoff hitter reached based in the first four innings for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the first when after Tim Carver led off the game with a single, Jacob Mahan bunting him into scoring position -- two batters later, first baseman Dominic Ficociello doubled to left center to give Arkansas an early edge.
"I thought we did a good job early in the game working some counts," Van Horn said. "Laid down two or three nice sacrifice bunts. Got a
couple of two or three hits, drove in some runs and we held on. That's just kind of the way we've been doing it."
Arkansas extended that lead in the fourth when Brian Anderson led off the inning with a walk and eventually stole second on a delayed steal. Matt Vinson's two-out single to right put Arkansas up 2-0 and ended Holmes outing. He finished with two earned runs and four hits on 3.2 innings of work.
While the Razorbacks had runners on base from the onset, Carolina couldn't put apply any pressure because just one leadoff batter reached base as Carolina was 0-for-8 in the first at-bat of an inning. The Gamecocks had just four hits total tying a season low.
The lone leadoff hitter to reach, Chase Vergason, who walked in the fifth, not coincidentally led the Carolina's only run and best chance at tying the game.
After Vergason walked, Marzilli's two-out triple to deep center later in the inning cut the Arkansas lead in half. After Arkansas walked Christian Walker, LB Danztler's rip to right was corralled by Anderson, who was aligned deep and paused briefly, then eventually sprinted in to make a sliding catch.
Stanek and Astin combined to sit down nine straight batters after Marzilli's hit until Dantzler's two-out double into the right field corner in the eighth. Sensing it might be the last chance to score, Tanner pinch-ran T.J. Costen, but Adam Matthews' chopper to second was fielded cleanly as Matthews was thrown out to end the inning.
Carolina was kept in the game by an impressive relief performance by Tyler Webb, who gave up just two hits in 5.1 scoreless innings.
"I just went out there with
the mindset to throw strikes and throw as well as I could for as long as I could and try to hold them to the lead they already had and give our team a chance to win," Webb said.
South Carolina stranded runners at second and third in the first and then stranded Matthews at third in the fourth.
With two outs, the speedy Tanner English's push bunt to the right side, nearly brought home a run, but Ficociello fielded it cleanly and reached out to tag English as he went by.
"You get a run there probably with anybody
at first base, except Ficociello," Tanner said. "He's great over there. It just wasn't quite inside enough for him to get past it. He made a great play."
South Carolina takes on Kent State Wednesday in its first win-or-go-home game since it faced Clemson for a chance to go to the CWS Finals in 2010.
"I don't think that's going to be difficult," Tanner said of getting his team back up after the loss. "We've got some guys that have been around a little bit. They have perspective. We've never been a team, the entire year, that we thought we would just show up and win or throw our gloves out there and win.
"We'll get a light workout in (Tuesday) and show up ready to go on Wednesday."
First pitch is scheduled for 8 ET. Tanner didn't know whether Michael Roth or Jordan Montgomery would get the start.
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