Battle? Check. Win anyway? Check. Fear the fish? Check. Return to Omaha? Check.
After rain forced a postponement until this afternoon, the Gamecocks found some offense and beat Oklahoma 5-1 to win the Super Regional and advance to the College World Series.
The first five and a half innings, played Sunday night, were relatively uninteresting. Each team had a chance to get on the board in the third, but neither could capitalize.
Both starters, Colby Holmes for USC and Jonathan Gray for OU, were solid on the mound Sunday night. Holmes allowed one hit in five innings of work, Gray gave up three in six innings. The game resumed this afternoon in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Sooners at the plate.
Tyler Webb started on the mound and got a lead off strike out from Tanner Toal before getting into a bit of a jam. Caleb Bushyhead appeared to hit into a routine groundout, but Joey Pankake and Christian Walker had difficulty making the play. Erik Ross followed that with a K and Bushyhead stole second, giving the Sooners a runner in scoring position with two outs.
Max White and Matt Oberste both walked, loading the bases with two down. Cody Reine flied out to end the inning, though he made Webb work for it, and fouled off five straight pitches as part of a 10-pitch at-bat.
USC broke the scoreless tie in the top of the seventh. DH Connor Bright led off with a double and Tanner English reached on a beautiful two-strike bunt. TJ Costen, who was pinch running for Bright, came home when the ball sailed past Okalhaoma’s third baseman, and English made it to second. That made the score 1-0 in favor of the Cocks, and Chase Vergason came up to sac bunt English over to third. Pankake would later walk and English came home on a wild pitch to give Carolina a 2-0 lead.
OU responded in the bottom of the inning. After Webb walked Jack Mayfield to lead things off, Evan Beal came on to pitch and promptly walked Garrett Carey. With runners on and no outs, Beal gave way to closer Matt Price. Mayfield tried to steal third but was caught and thrown out by Rosenberg, who was solid again today. Carey did make it to second, and Evan Mistich knocked an RBI single to bring Carey across the plate. That cut the Gamecocks’ lead to 2-1, but Price allowed no more damage.
South Carolina padded their lead in the top of the eighth. Adam Matthews laced a one-out single and LB Dantzler did the same. Matthews got to third on Dantzler’s hit. English laid down his second bunt of the day, which brought Matthews across the plate and put runners at first and second with two outs. Vergason roped an two-RBI double to give the Yardcocks a 5-1 lead, but was stranded at second as Rosenberg K’d to end the inning.
From there, Price kept OU’s bats almost silent, allowing just one run and also issuing a walk. Pankake also made a fantastic play in the ninth inning for the Sooners’ second out. Steven Okert, who started on the mound this afternoon for the Oklahoma, also shut down the Cocks in the ninth.
Webb, who pitched just one inning, in which he walked three, K’d two, and allowed no hits, got the win. He imporves to 6-1 on the season, Price earned the save, his 11th. It was also his 41st career save, tying the all-time SEC record. Okert took the loss and drops to 9-8 on the season.
The Gamecocks outhit the Sooners 8-3, and also recorded two errors to the Oklahoma’s one. English led USC at the plate, going 2-for-3. Mistich went 1-for-2 to lead OU.
The crowd showed their appreciation for the guys who were likely playing their last game at Carolina Stadium – Price, Walker, and Marzilli. After the game, Price was asked about the role he’s played while in the garnet and black, and specifically how he feels about the high-pressure situations hes sometimes put in:
“I get nervous all the time,” Price said. “I think it’s always good to have a little nervousness in you. You have the butterflies, that’s a good sign.”
In his postgame comments, Ray Tanner made sure to applaud the class and dignity with which Oklahoma’s team and Coach Golloway carried themselves. The Sooners finish with a record of 42-25, which is nothing to scoff at. Had it not been for the special brand of luck that seems to follow the Yardcocks through the postseason, things might be very different right now.
The players dogpiled on the mound moments after Rosenberg tagged Dylan Neal for the final out. Despite the damp conditions and delayed game, the moment couldn’t have been sweeter. Now they’ll pack their bags and hope the next dogpile comes at TD Ameritrade in Omaha.
“Since I was 12, I’ve been thinking about what it’d be like,” Vergason said. “It’s almost surreal. It’s here. I get to do it. I can’t wait.”
Carolina is now 45-17 and has won 21 straight postseason games. The Gamecocks will be making their third straight appearance in the CWS for the second time in school history. South Carolina will face off against Florida in an SEC East/CWS rematch on Friday at 9 ET. The game will be shown on ESPN.