South Carolina dropped Game 2 of the CWS Finals to Arizona last night, making the Wildcats the 2012 champs. UA was just incredibly solid in all aspects of the game, and they certainly deserved the victory, but that doesn’t make the outcome any easier to swallow. It seemed that after two years of having all the right things happen at the right times for us, Arizona got to have that luck on their side last night.
In his final start as a Gamecock (cue the sobbing), Michael Roth did everything he could to keep his team in it. He allowed just one run on three hits, walked one batter, and struck out three. What else is there to say, really, besides Roth was simply just Roth.
Even after he left the game (to a thunderous and well-deserved standing ovation), he was in the dugout laughing, smiling, and cheering his teammates on. Michael Roth is hands down one of, if not the best to ever wear the garnet and black, and we all owe him so, so much for what he did for Carolina baseball. (I really am crying again, you guys).
Arizona first got on the board in the top of the third. Joesph Maggi led off with a double and advanced to third on a sac ground out by Riley Moore. Trent Gilbert was up next and he also grounded out, but Maggi was able to make it home.
As they have for the past three years, the Yardcocks rallied to tie the game. In the bottom of the seventh, Christian Walker had an excellent at-bat that went into double digit pitches and eventually ended in a lead off walk. Adam Matthews knocked a one-out single, which put runners on the corners. Kyle Martin hit the ball to first, but brought Walker across the plate to make the score 1-1.
USC had a chance to take the lead in the eighth when Chase Vergason made it to third on a throwing error, but Joey Pankake struck out to end the inning. ESPN then chose to show him looking absolutely heartbroken, which in turn prompted some waterworks from yours truly.
USC did force UA to go into their bullpen, but it didn’t matter, as the Cocks just couldn’t manufacture enough offense.
The Wildcats did the rest of their damage in the top of the ninth. Series MVP Robert Refnsyder started the inning with a single, and Seth Mejias-Brean advanced him to second with a sac bunt. Bobby Brown was intentionally walked, and Brandon Dixon roped an RBI double to make it 2-1. Unfortunately, Arizona wasn’t done.
Gilbert knocked a two out single and made it to second on the throw, also bringing two more runs in. That gave the Wildcats a 4-1 lead.
The Cocks looked like the had a chance to get back in it when Walker led off the bottom of the inning with a single and LB Dantzler and Martin both coaxed walks. The bases were loaded, but Tanner English and Grayson Greiner were unable to reach base, ending the game and making Arizona the national champs.
The Wildcats outhit the Yardcocks 7-3 and each team recorded an error. Walker went 1-for-2 to lead the Gamecocks at the plate, Refsnyder lead UA, going 2-for-3.
After Roth was lifted after 6 2/3 innings, Matt Price came in for possibly his last appearance for South Carolina. He worked 1 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on three hits. He walked one batter and struck out two. He also took the loss and drops to 5-5 on the season. Tyler Webb finished off the last 2/3 of an inning and allowed one hit while also tallying a K.
Arizona starter James Farris lasted 7 2/3 innings and surrendered just one run on two hits. He walked two batters and struck out four. Reliever Mathew Troupe finished the game and earned the win, improving to 6-1. He gave up only one hit, walked two, and K’d two batters in 1 1/3 innings.
South Carolina finishes the season with an overall record of 49-20, the Wildcats finish 48-17. To come so far and get so close, then go home as the runner-up was obviously disappointing for the Yardocks, and seeing Roth, Pankake, and Price cry, or come close to it, was absolutely heartbreaking. But like Ray Tanner said, there’s no reason to be disappointed in the players themselves.
Further, there’s no reason for anyone to hang their head about this season, but there are plenty of reasons to be tremendously proud. After starting 1-5 in the SEC and with five new position players, I don’t know that anyone could have predicted the Cocks would get as far as they did. While their 22-game postseason winning streak was snapped the other night, they still reached the final series for the third straight year, a remarkable – and almost impossible – feat.
So, yes, our reign as the national titleholders has come to an end, but that should make the desire to recapture the trophy next year even stronger.
And to the guys who won’t be here next year: our seniors, Michael and Adam, and possibly a few juniors, Evan M., Christian, and Matt, all that’s left to say is thank you. Thank you for what you did, on and off the field. Thank you for bringing us our first and second titles in a major sport. Thank you for giving Gamecock Nation something to be immensely proud of. Thank you for never giving up, for battling and winning anyway and representing our university with class. Thank you, simply, for being you. We’ll miss you in the garnet and black, and don’t you dare be strangers.
And to the rest of the guys and coaches, as always, we’ll miss you until next season. Thank you, too, for everything you did. To our outstanding freshman: Tanner, Grayson, Kyle, Joey, Jordan, Evan B., who went from early struggles to veteran-like confidence; to LB (and Reptar), who gave us a new motto and renewed hope – and some solid on-field play, too; to Dante and Chase, who didn’t always get a lot of playing time, but came through with big plays in the clutch and made their time count; and all the rest of our amazing team, thank you. We can’t wait to watch you chase your dreams – and ours – again next season on the quest to return to Omaha.
Win or lose, we should always be proud to be Gamecocks. Here’s a health Carolina, forever to thee.