After waiting more than a century for its first national championship, the University of South Carolina didn’t have to wait nearly as long for its second …
The Gamecock baseball team – which defeated UCLA last summer to claim the school’s first national title in a major sport – added a second championship to the trophy case on Tuesday night with a 5-2 win over Florida in the final game 2011 College World Series. South Carolina is only the sixth team in history to win consecutive titles – and only the ninth school to win multiple championships.
“Our players, they’ve made it happen between the lines,” USC head coach Ray Tanner said. “They made plays. They made pitches. They got bit hits. They always felt they had a chance to win. They believed.”
South Carolina’s remarkable 2011 run also made college baseball history. USC became the first team ever to go 10-0 in the NCAA postseason, while the Gamecocks’ 16 consecutive postseason wins and 11 consecutive wins in the College World Series dating back to last season are also records.
Also, after closing out sixty years of CWS history at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha with last summer’s championship – South Carolina became the first team to win the CWS at its new home, TD Ameritrade Park.
“It’s difficult to put into words what we’ve experienced in the last few days and having been at Rosenblatt last year and having the good fortune of closing that out and getting an opportunity to come to TD Ameritrade this year was very special,” Tanner said.
All-American pitcher Michael Roth pitched another gem for USC, surrendering only five hits and two runs in 7.2 innings of work against the second-seeded Gators (53-19). In 38.1 innings at the College World Series over the last two years, Roth boasts a 1.17 ERA – second-best all-time. USC reliever Matt Price worked the final 1.1 inning to pick up his 20th save of the season – tying a school record.
All post-season long, the Gamecocks answered the “call to arms.” In fact, the South Carolina pitching staff posted a miniscule 1.31 ERA in 10 NCAA Tournament games. Led by Price, the Gamecock bullpen finished 6-0 with five saves and a 0.53 ERA in 33.2 innings of work. USC’s relievers did not allow an extra base-hit the entire tournament.
Carolina got offense from Scott Wingo – the defensive hero of game one of the CWS – and from Christian Walker, who was playing his second game with a broken bone in his left hand. Wingo – a senior from Greenville, S.C. – drove in a pair of runs for USC en route to capturing Most Outstanding Player honors.
“Scott Wingo is the epitome of what our program is all about,” Tanner said.
Along with Wingo, Roth and Walker, there other Gamecocks – catcher Robert Beary, shortstop Peter Mooney and designated hitter Brady Thomas – made the CWS All-Tournament team.
South Carolina wasn’t supposed to repeat. The Gamecocks (55-14) entered the 2011 season ranked No. 7 in the nation by Baseball America – behind SEC East rivals Florida (No. 1) and Vanderbilt (No. 4). Also, they entered the post-season seeded fourth – behind Virginia, Florida and North Carolina.
“The statistics, the percentages of (repeating) are stacked against you,” Tanner said. “The only thing I kept holding on to was let’s have a good team. Let’s have a good season. Let’s get to the postseason. Let’s get a chance to go to a regional.”
After sharing the SEC championship with the Gators and Commodores, USC was all alone at the top in Omaha. And in a testament to the SEC’s dominance this year, the conference didn’t lose a single CWS game to a non-conference opponent – with Florida beating Vanderbilt twice and USC defeating the Gators in back-to-back games in the championship round.