USC will get the chance to defend its College World Series title after winning the Columbia Regional Sunday night with an 8-2 victory over Connecticut. The Gamecocks’ 50th win of the season catapults them back to Omaha where they won their first national championship last summer.
A five run top of the 9th inning allowed USC to blow open a tight game. The Gamecocks batted around in the inning to extend a 3-2 lead to 8-2. Matt Price worked around a couple of baserunners in the bottom of the 9th to close the door on the Huskies. He struck out the last two batters to set off a wild celebration on the mound as his teammates piled on top of him.
USC saw a chance for the early lead cut down at the plate in the 2nd inning. Brady Thomas tried to score from second on a single by Peter Mooney but rightfielder John Andreoli gunned down Thomas to end the inning.
UConn took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second off Gamecock starter Colby Holmes. The 8-9 hitters, Tim Martin and Billy Ferriter, had the RBI singles. But that would be all the scoring for the Huskies as Holmes, Jose Mata, Tyler Webb, John Taylor and Price, along with some outstanding defense including three double plays, kept them off the board.
The Gamecocks got on the board with a run in the fourth. Thomas doubled and later scored on a double by Jake Williams. They tied the game in the sixth. With one out, Adrian Morales singled and went to second on a single by Williams. He later scored on a single to center by Robert Beary.
The Huskies got their first two batters on in the 5th but LJ Mazzilli hit a line drive to left and, after Jose Mata relieved Holmes, John Andreoli hit a line drive to Scott Wingo at second who doubled off Billy Ferriter at first to end the inning.
UConn had a major chance to score in the 6th. With one out, Mike Nemith singled off new reliever Tyler Webb. Nemith was given extra life in the at bat when Morales chased off Beary on a foul pop near the backstop and failed to make the catch. John Taylor relieved Webb. Ryan Fuller greeted him with a single, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Taylor then intentionally walked Nick Ahmed to load the bases. Doug Elliott then hit chopper right back to Taylor who fired home for one out, and Beary then rifled a strike to Christian Walker at first to complete the double play and end the inning.
Neither team threatened in the 7th with the Gamecocks turning a double play for the third straight inning to end the seventh. The Gamecocks broke the tie in the top of the 8th as Walker led off with his tenth homer of the season, a shot into the seats in left field. Later in the inning the Gamecocks loaded the bases with two outs, but Steven Neff flied to center to end the threat.
Price entered the game in the 8th for the Gamecocks. He promptly gave up a single to Andreoli, but he was forced at second on a grounder by George Stringer. Price then struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
Nursing a 3-2 lead going to the ninth, the Gamecocks finally broke thru against the Huskies’ bullpen. David Fischer had come on in the 8th after Walker’s home run and stemmed the tide in that inning. But in the ninth, Evan Marzilli led off with a walk and went to third on a bunt by Scott Wingo and a throwing error by Fischer who tried to get Wingo at first. Walker was walked intentionally and the Huskies brought in their closer Kevin Vance. Thomas delivered a run on a sacrifice fly to left. Adrian Morales was walked intentionally to reload the bases, and Williams was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Mooney then ripped a double to centerfield to plate two runs. Beary grounded out to third with Williams scoring the eighth and final run.
Price got Ahmed to pop up to Beary to start the ninth. He then gave up a single to Elliott, who later went to second on a passed ball, and a walk to Martin. But Price bore down and struck out Ferriter and Mazilli to end the game.
(Coach Jim Penders, CF George Springer, SS Nick Ahmed, P Greg Nappo)
(Coach Ray Tanner, 1B Christian Walker, SS Peter Mooney, RP John Taylor, RP Matt Price)
Taylor earned the win to improve to 6-1. Price earned his 18th save. Nappo took the loss to fall to 10-3. The Gamecocks are 50-14. They will play either Florida State or Texas A&M next Sunday in round one of the College World Series in Omaha.