Throughout Carolina’s time in Omaha, each day’s post will be part of the Road to a Repeat series, as the Gamecocks look to win back-to-back national championships.
Before I recap the game, I’d just like to say that I’m not a superstitious person, but I wore the same shirt and shorts for every single game the team played in the NCAA Tournament and in Omaha. They went undefeated. Is there a correlation? Probably not. But I did it anyway.
Now for the important stuff…
The South Carolina Gamecocks are your 2011 College World Series Champions, taking the title for a second straight year. They closed down Rosenblatt, and they got the first championship title at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. That’s history, and it’s pretty darn special.
They didn’t have to be the comeback kids or take it past nine innings tonight as they beat the Florida Gators 5-2, going undefeated in Omaha (the last team to do that was Miami in 2001), and setting records for most consecutive NCAA Tournament wins with 16 and for most consecutive CWS wins with 11. The last team to win back-to-back titles was Oregon State in 2006 and 2007.
Carolina got on the board early, taking a 3-0 lead in the third, thanks to a Scott Wingo sacrifice, a Christian Walker single/Nolan Fontana error, and a Brady Thomas single. The Gators responded in the fourth with a home run from SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino, who managed to break out of his slump tonight. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for Zunino and the Gators.
The Gamecocks had a chance to break the game open in the fifth with the bases loaded and two outs, but Jake Williams struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the sixth, though, Peter Mooney went yard, putting the Gamecocks up 4-1 and giving them their first homer in Omaha.
The Gators tacked on another run in the top of the eighth on an RBI from Josh Adams, but the Cocks had a little left in them, and put one more on the board in the bottom of the inning, thanks to an RBI off the bat of who else but Captain Clutch himself, Wingo (who has also been dubbed “OchoWingo” on twitter). Matt Price closed the game out, and Carolina dogpiled on the field as champions for the second year in a row.
Walker played like a stud again tonight, despite the fact that his wrist was really swollen (“like a stack of pancakes”, according to ESPN). Wingo, who Coach Tanner called, “the epitome of what our program is all about,” was named the Most Outstanding Player of the CWS, and deservedly so, although there were a slew of Gamecocks who could’ve been given the honor.
Both starting pitchers were fantastic tonight, with Michael Roth throwing almost 130 pitches, and freshman Karsten Whitson keeping the Gamecock bats fairly quiet. He did, however, hit three Carolina guys, giving them free bases I’m sure the Gators would’ve liked to have back. Once Whitson was done, UF used a ton of relievers, in hopes that they could make something happen. They did a great job, but the offense couldn’t provide enough run support to take the lead.
The Florida players and staff were obviously crestfallen following the game, and it was sad to see, even as I watched my team celebrate on the field. Senior Josh Adams was so emotional in the post game presser that he couldn’t answer the question he was asked right away, and struggled to collect himself.
The Gators deserve credit for playing a great season and getting all the way to the final series, something only one other team – the Gamecocks – did. I was nervous more than once to be playing them, and they should feel proud of all they accomplished. Coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his team were a force to be reckoned with, and they should feel no shame about how they played.
The post-game mood was obviously much different for the South Carolina guys. After the game, Roth had this to say:
“Like the (CWS) motto says, ‘History happens here,’ and that’s what we did. We made some history.”
I’ve said all week that this was a team with a destiny to fulfill, and they did it tonight. With the battle mentality, the inspiration from Bayler Teal and Charlie Peters, and the “win anyway” attitude these guys had, they were unstoppable. They got out of jam after jam, worked some sort of magic, and epitomized the meaning of team effort.
Thomas, a senior who contributed despite a nagging foot injury, explained what the win meant to him:
“It’s not going to sink in for a while. Just playing here is an honor and winning it is an unbelievable feeling. Closing down Rosenblatt and opening up this place, I couldn’t go out a better way. This team has been through so much this year. We’ve battled injuries, and we’ve been though a lot of adversity. We’ve just persevered through it. This is a tough group of guys, and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for this team right here.”
Fellow senior Wingo echoed his teammate, telling reporters in the post-game presser:
“We might not be the most talented team, but I wouldn’t play with any other people. We’ll straight up fight you, and for you to beat us, for somebody to take our title, they’re going to have to take it from us and just beat us. They didn’t do it. Everybody turned it up a notch. It’s awesome.”
Awesome, indeed. So awesome, in fact, that even Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin was tweeting during the game, and now the state of Florida owes the state of South Carolina some key lime pie, thanks to a bet made by Governors Rick Scott and Nikki Haley, respectively.
Congratulations, Gamecock baseball, and thank you for another magical season. I don’t even have the words to adequately express how I’m feeling, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to say that I’m a part of Gamecock Nation.