USC second baseman Scott Wingo scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th for the Gamecocks in last year’s national championship clinching victory over UCLA. Sunday night in Omaha, Wingo delivered the winning base hit in the bottom of the ninth as the Gamecocks downed Texas A&M 5-4 in their 2011 CWS opener. The Gamecocks have won 12 straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to last year’s World Series. And they won their CWS opener for the first time since defeating Baylor in 1977 on an inside the park home run by Chuck McClain.
Robert Beary nearly won the game for USC leading off the ninth. The Gamecock catcher slugged a long fly off the right field wall for a double. Jackie Bradley Jr, who returned to the lineup for the first time since April 23rd, singled with Beary stopping at third. Evan Marzilli walked to load the bases. Then, A&M coach Rob Childress pulled his leftfielder and inserted a fifth infielder. But it was for naught as Wingo drilled a deep fly ball to the right field wall for an RBI single and the victory. Wingo had a career high four hits on the night.
The Gamecocks are now 51-14 and will face Virginia Tuesday night at 7:00 PM Eastern in the winners bracket of Bracket 2. Virginia defeated California earlier Sunday 4-1.
Few would have believed this game would turn into a pitchers duel after watching the first inning. A combined 16 hitters came to the plate and eight runs scored. The Aggies posted four unearned runs in their half of the inning. Tyler Naquin led off the game with a chopper off Michael Roth that first baseman Christian Walker misplayed for an error. He later scored from second on a single by Jacob House. The Aggies loaded the bases with two outs and Brandon Wood cleared them with a triple into the rightfield corner.
The Gamecocks came right back with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs. Ross Stripling then balked in the Gamecocks’ first run. With one out, Adrian Morales got an RBI with a grounder to second which Andrew Collazo turned into an error by overthrowing the first baseman. Then with two outs, Peter Mooney drove home the tieing run with an infield single the second baseman had to play on the grass in short rightfield.
After that rocky start, Roth and Stripling settled in and were practically untouchable. Roth allowed just two hits until he was lifted for John Taylor with one out in the 8th. Roth lowered his ERA to 0.97. He has gone 37.1 innings without allowing an earned run. He did yield a season high five walks and he struck out eight. In fact, a leadoff walk in the 6th nearly cost Roth. Kevin Gonzalez eventually made it to third with two outs but Roth got a fly ball to right to end the inning.
Taylor and Price were perfect in relief. Taylor threw only six pitches, all strikes, in retiring his three batters, and Price took care of the last two hitters in the 9th throwing just ten pitches. Price earned the win to improve to 6-3.
Stripling kept the Gamecocks at bay after the first scattering four hits until he was pulled after the 8th inning. The Gamecocks threatened in the fourth and fifth innings getting a runner to third in each, but Stripling got out of trouble each time. In the 7th, USC had runners on first and second with one out but Stripling was able to get a line drive to second and a ground out to second to end the inning.
But his bullpen let him down in the 9th as neither Kyle Martin nor Nick Fleece retired a batter. Fleece took the loss. The Aggies will face California Tuesday afternoon in an elimination game.
(Ray Tanner, Scott Wingo, Michael Roth, Jackie Bradley Jr., Robert Beary)
(Rob Childress, Brandon Wood, Ross Stripling)
The first elimination game of the CWS is set for Monday afternoon with North Carolina playing Texas at 2:00 PM Eastern. Monday night at 7:00 PM Eastern, Florida plays Vanderbilt in the winners bracket game of Bracket 1.