If USC is going to win a third straight national championship, they are going to have to do it the hard way.
The Gamecocks incredible postseason run of 22 straight wins skidded to a halt in a 2-1 loss to Arkansas Monday night at the College World Series. The Gamecocks drop into the loser’s bracket and will face Kent State in an elimination game Wednesday night. The winner of that game will have to beat the Razborbacks twice to advance to the championship series.
Arkansas starter Ryan Stanek held the USC bats in check and the Razorbacks capitalized on a pair of two out hits to put the two time defending champs on the brink of elimination. A Gamecock team that has made every play during its record setting run could not find the crucial hit or out when they needed it.
AUDIO: USC press conference-Ray Tanner, Tyler Webb, Evan Marzilli [6:31]
AUDIO: Arkansas press conference-Dave Van Horn, Matt Vinson, Ryne Stanek, Barrett Astin [6:54]
The Razorbacks didn’t waste any time grabbing the lead off USC starter Colby Holmes. They took a quick lead 1-0 lead in the first inning after Tim Carver lead off the inning with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a two out double by Dominic Fiocociello.
The Gamecocks failed on a scoring opportunity in their half of the first. They had runners on second and third with one out but LB Dantzler grounded to first and Adam Matthews hit comebacker to the pitcher to end the threa.
The Razorbacks scored the all important insurance run in the fourth. After a leadoff walk from Brian Anderson, the next two hitters were retired. But with two outs Anderson stole second and scored when Matt Vinson laced a 2-2 pitch into right field for an RBI single to put the Hogs up 2-0.
After Vinson’s single, Holmes gave way to Tyler Webb who finished the game on the mound for the Gamecocks. Webb was sensational, keeping Arkansas off the board while allowing just two hits in 5 1/3 innings of work.
The Gamecocks wasted another scoring opportunity in the 4th. Matthews had a one out double and went to third on a ground out to first by Connor Bright. Tanner English then tried to beat out a bunt down the first base line but was tagged out by the first baseman.
USC pulled within a run in the 5th inning when Evan Marzilli hit a two out triple to score Chase Vergason. Vergason had reached base on a leadoff walk. With Marzilli on third base representing the tying run Christian Walker drew a walk, but Dantzler lined out hard to right field to end the threat.
Arkansas standed a runner at third in the sixth and at second in the seventh while the Gamecocks could not muster a threat. They went down in order in the sixth and seventh.
In the 8th, Dantzler lined a two out double but Matthews could not get the run home as he grounded out to second.
The Gamecocks went down in order in the 9th with two ground outs and a strike out.
AUDIO: Ray Tanner on the end of the winning streak [1:12]
USC finished the game with four hits, three against Stanek and one against closer Barrett Astin. They were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.
USC will face a Kent State team Wednesday that is fresh off a 5-4 win over Florida. The loss has the top national seed Gators heading back to Gainesville. The Gamecocks and Flashes will play at 8:00 Wednesday night. The winner will play Arkansas Thursday night.
Gamecock coach Ray Tanner said he’s undecided about his starting pitcher. His options are senior Micheal Roth, who pitched Saturday, or freshman Jordan Montgomery.