Well here we are: Just hours away from the game (possibly games), that it appeared may not actually take place.
Ever since Clemson punched the final ticket to Omaha, this is the match-up anyone from the Palmetto State with any interest in the sport wanted to see: Gamecocks vs. Tigers, on a national stage. At 9:00 ET tonight, that match-up will take place.
By way of a 2-0 start to the 2010 College World Series, the Tigers obviously have one major advantage in that they only have to win once, whereas the Gamecocks have to take two from the Tigers. Baseball is a game in which sometimes even when you do all the small things right, you still lose. It's a game of failure as Tanner says, so this obviously is a big -- possibly the biggest -- advantage for the Tigers.
With that out of the way, what are the Gamecocks going to have to do to find a way to take two straight from the Tigers, just like they did in 2002?
Well to win two, they have to win one first, obviously, so we'll stick with tonight's game for now.
Sophomore lefthander Michael Roth -- making his first start of the season -- will face off with Clemson freshman Dominic Leonne (3-1, 4.53 ERA).
Roth has been the Gamecocks best lefty out of the pen with an oustanding 1.37 ERA. Opponents are batting just .198 against him. Still it will be his first start since 4/14/2009 when he pitched 4.1 innings and gave up five earned runs against the College of Charleston as a freshman in his second career start.
Roth leads the team in appearances but has primarily been a situational guy. His longest outing during the season was just 1.2 innings, though he did come up big for Carolina in the Regional pitching 3.1 scoreless innings while striking out five and picking up the win against Bucknell.
South Carolina won't expect a seven-inning effort from Roth, but will hope he can give them at least quality three innings against the lefty-ladin Clemson line-up. In order to make a run from the loser's bracket, players have to step up and for the Gamecocks to win tonight, they need Roth to get the job done.
Like all college athletics, college baseball is a game of emotion -- a game of adrenaline. These are still young adults, so go ahead and throw out any lingering thoughts about the fact Carolina played a late game last night and the fact Clemson had a day off. The guys have played all year for this moment. That won't be a factor in the outcome.
College baseball, however, is also a game of match-ups and percentages. So how do the Gamecocks match-up with Clemson? This is when the fact that Carolina has had to battle through way more innings than the Tigers to this point comes into play.
For the Gamecocks tonight, go ahead and throw out Blake Cooper, Sam Dyson and probably Matt Price. Those three aren't available.
Roth will likely match up well with the Clemson lineup for one time though. But what happens the second time around will be an important storyline to watch.
Who the Gamecocks go to from there is anybody's guess. Other than the three mentioned above, literally the whole staff is available and you can look for Calvi and Tanner to play the percentages throughout.
Again, someone will have to step up along the way. While Jose Mata isn't the perfect match-up Roth is for the Clemson hitters, he's been one of the best guys out of the pen all year long, particularly in the second half of the season. I wouldn't be surprise to see him as one of the first guys out, particularly if it means facing a righty or two.
If the Gamecocks are going to pull out a win over Clemson, they're also likely going to need a pitcher to step up and close things out late. With Price not available -- Carolina's usual top option there -- and the fact Roth will already be burned due to the start, somewhat like Stevan Neff, Tyler Webb or even Jay Brown or Ethan Carter or going to have to make big pitches late for the Gamecocks.
While it completely contradicts what Tanner said -- and even what I've written in this blog to this point -- I still wouldn't be surprised to see a Matt Price sighting if the Gamecocks need a couple of outs late to pull the thing out.
The point: you never know what you're going to see in these type contests, so don't be surprised with anything.
Obviously, it goes without saying that the Carolina bats are going to have to look a lot better than they did last night. One run through nine innings simply isn't going to do it.
Make no mistake, it's going to take a heck of an effort from Carolina to pull out a victory tonight -- and then an equally as impressive effort to pull out another one tomorrow.
But this is the College World Series, and this is Clemson vs. Carolina on the biggest stage college baseball has to offer. As we've already seen proven in the last week, anything can happen in Omaha.
And as this team has proven time and time again this season, don't count these Gamecocks out.
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