Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
Scott Wingo's career-high fourth hit of the game drove in Robert Beary to give South Carolina the 5-4 walk-off win over Texas A&M in their opening game of the 2011 College World Series. USC fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first but fought back to tie it in the bottom half of the inning. Michael Roth pitched 7.1 strong innings and didn't give up an earned run. Matt Price received the win.
South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner didn't want anyone else up with the game on the line.
Senior second baseman Scott Wingo hadn't been retired all game and didn't have any plans of changing that when he stepped in the batter's box with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and the winning run 90 feet away.
"I know I needed to come up big there and I just tried to go out there and put a good swing on it. I took that first pitch," Wingo said. "I was mad at myself, I could have drove that pretty well. When I had two strikes, I went out there and battled."
Wingo delivered, turning on an inside fastball and lifting it to right field, a blast that nearly cleared the fence and scored Beary easily to give Carolina the 5-4 victory.
The bases loaded situation caused Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress to take his left fielder out of the game and insert another in-fielder directly up the middle on second base.
The entire scenario was sparked by catcher Robert Beary whose opposite field blast to right field to lead off the inning barely stayed in the park and gave the Gamecocks a runner on second with nobody out.
"He changed the game, he changed the inning," Tanner said.
"Coach Tanner told me
before the inning started that I needed to get on
base; I knew my job," Beary said. "Before I walked up to the plate, I was talking to myself: I gotta hit one for my father. He's in Afghanistan, so he couldn't be here
Jackie Bradley, Jr., who hadn't recorded a hit in his return to the Gamecocks' line-up, was asked to bunt but failed to do so in his first two strikes. Bradley made up for it by lacing an outside pitch into left field allowing Beary to move up to third.
After an Evan Marzilli walk to load the bases, A&M deployed their unusual shift before Wingo delivered his heroics.
The game started as wild as it ended.
A&M's Tyler Naquin led off the game with a routine bouncer to first base, but Christian Walker couldn't handle it cleanly allowing Naquin to reach on the error.
After a sacrifice bunt and walk, Jacob House singled up the middle triggering a play at the plate. Bradley's throw was perfect but Naquin was called safe putting A&M up 1-0.
Following a double steal and another walk, Brandon Wood's shot down the right field line fell just past the outreached glove of Marzilli to clear the bases and put A&M up 4-0.
"I don't think it would be South Carolina baseball if we didn't give up a couple of runs in the first inning," Roth quipped.
With all the momentum on one side, the Gamecocks bounced right back in the bottom half of the inning.
Marzilli led off with a walk followed by back-to-back singles from Wingo and Walker. With Brady Thomas up to bat, a balk was called on pitcher Ross Stripling to give the Gamecocks their first run of the game.
Adrian Morales' ground ball to second base appeared to score just one but when Andrew Collazo's throw to first sailed over the first baseman's head, the lead was cut to one and Morales ended up on second.
Peter Mooney's RBI single tied the game at 4.
"You don't ever take the attitude, 'well,
we're down, it's going to be very difficult,'" Tanner said. "It's
baseball. And we've been in these situations
many times. And you just have to keep plugging
and hope that you get some opportunities."
From there the two pitchers, who came into the night with a combined 27 wins this season, went to work.
Neither starter would give up another run as Roth worked into the eighth and Stripling worked eight full.
Roth struck out eight and gave up just 4 hits in 7.1 innings.
The game was ultimately decided when the teams went to their bullpens.
John Taylor and Matt Price (6-3) combined to pitch 1.2 perfect innings as Price picked up the win.
Stripling's replacement to start the ninth, Kyle Martin didn't fair nearly as well as his fourth pitch of the game turned into Beary's double.
"We definitely didn't have a good chance [against South Carolina's relievers], both guys came in did what
they've done all year long did a great job," Childress said. "Their
bullpen was better than ours tonight, it was pretty
evident and those guys did a great job."
After the double, Childress immediately went to closer Nick Fleece but with the winning run already on second, he didn't fair much better and eventually gave up the game-winner.
South Carolina moves on to face Virginia in the winner's bracket Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET. Sophomore Colby Holmes will make his first career CWS start for the Gamecocks.