South Carolina right fielder Whit Merrifield singled home the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th to propel the Gamecocks to a 2-1 comeback win over the UCLA Bruins and the school’s first national title on Tuesday night in the final College World Series game at Rosenblatt Stadium. A raucous crowd of 24,390 fans, the largest of the 2010 CWS, witnessed the nail-biting finale. South Carolina defeated UCLA two games to none in the best-of-three championship final series.
Kevin Kugler’s call of Merrifield hit on NCAA Westwood One Radio Network
The Gamecocks trailed, 1-0, heading to the bottom of the eighth before tying the game and sending it to extra innings. Leading off the 11th, second baseman Scott Wingo took his third walk of the day then moved to second on a passed ball. Left fielder Evan Marzilli executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to put the winning run 90 feet away before Merrifield stepped to the plate and drove a 2-0 pitch from Dan Klein that dropped just inside the right field line, scoring Wingo in the first title game decided in extra innings since 1970.
USC post game press conference
UCLA post game press conference
Trailing 1-0, South Carolina tied the game in the eighth after pinch-hitter Brady Thomas sparked the rally with a leadoff single. A groundout moved pinch-runner Robert Beary into scoring position at second. Shortstop Bobby Haney then slapped a ball to first, but Dean Espy misplayed the ball, as the error allowed Beary to score the tying run.
The contest featured a thrilling pitcher’s duel, as the two teams combined to leave 24 runners on base, a MCWS Championship Finals record. Reliever Matt Price (5-1) earned the win for the Gamecocks, giving up one hit over the final 2.2 innings. South Carolina used five pitchers in the winning effort, including starter Michael Roth, who allowed one run on six hits through five innings. The Gamecock bullpen gave up just two hits over the final six innings, as South Carolina pitchers stranded 10 Bruins over 11 innings. South Carolina’s bullpen was instrumental in the series, going 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in seven games, including six frames of two-hit shutout ball on Tuesday.
Roth worked out of a jam in each of the first two innings before UCLA cracked the scoreboard in the top of the fifth. Third baseman Trevor Brown led off with an infield single and eventually scored when shortstop Niko Gallego singled to left-center for the 1-0 lead.
The Gamecocks had multiple scoring opportunities early in the contest, but struggled to string together any hits, stranding 11 runners, including five in scoring position, through the first seven innings. Overall, the Gamecocks stranded 14 runners, most by a team in the CWS championship finals. South Carolina’s only multi-hit inning came in the seventh, as the Gamecocks had a pair of base knocks.
Still tied at 1-1 in the top of the ninth, UCLA had an opportunity with the bases loaded and two outs, but Price struck out Gallego to escape the jam. UCLA closer Dan Klein (6-1), who suffered the loss, retired the Gamecocks in order in the bottom of the ninth, fanning the first two batters, to send the game to extra innings.
UCLA starter Rob Rasmussen held the Gamecocks scoreless during his six innings, allowing six hits and striking out five. Klein tossed the final 3.1 innings, as Merrifield’s hit was the only base hit Klein allowed.
Tuesday night marked the final game in the 61-year history of the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. The 2011 series will mark the first to be played at TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.