USC is headed back to the College World Series championship series for the second year in a row after defeating Virginia 3-2 in 13 innings Friday night before a TD Ameritrade Park record crowd of 25, 882. The Gamecocks completed an unbeaten run thru Bracket Two with an NCAA record 14th straight tournament win. They will meet SEC East rival Florida in the series beginning Monday night. The Gators defeated Vanderbilt Friday afternoon 6-4 to also complete an unbeaten run thru Bracket One. The Gators will be the home team in game one. The Gamecocks will be the home team for game two, and if necessary, game three.
USC scored the winning run in the bottom of the 13th thanks to a pair of throwing errors by relief pitcher Cody Winiarski. Brady Thomas led off the inning with a single and was lifted for pinch runner Adam Matthews. Peter Mooney bunted back to Winiarski who tried to get Matthews at second. His throw was wild and the error allowed Mathews to get the base. Robert Beary followed with a sacrifice bunt field by Winiarski. This time he tried to get Matthews at third. Again his throw was wild and got past the third baseman for an error as Matthews raced home with the winning run.
The game turned into a battle of wills for two of the nation’s top closers. USC’s Matt Price pitched the final 5.2 innings. He did not allow a run whle scattering 7 hits. He threw 95 pitches. His counterpart, Branden Kline, worked 5 innings. He did not allow a run and only 3 hits. He threw 107 pitches.
Virginia starter Danny Hultzen had to leave after three innings due to the flu. He was dominating the Gamecocks strking out 8 of the 10 batters he faced. Gamecock starter Michael Roth was nearly as good. He did allow an earned run, his first in 38.1 innings dating back to May 13th. But he only gave up 4 hits and he left with a 2-1 lead.
The Gamecocks scored those two runs in the 4th on a two run double by Thomas. That wiped out a 1-0 Virginia lead. The Cavaliers kept the pressure on the Gamecocks all night getting at least one runner on base in every inning from the 5th on. Three times they loaded the bases against Price and each time he got out of the inning.
Two Gamecock errors in the 8th led to the tieing run. Third baseman Adrian Morales pulled first baseman Christian Walker off the bag trying to throw out Chris Taylor to open the inning. Taylor was sacrificed to second. Price entered the game and got a hard hit ground ball at the shortstop Mooney. But the ball never came up as he expected and went right thru his legs. Taylor raced home with the tieing run.
Kline came on in the bottom of the 8th and got into a bases loaded jam with one out but he struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. and Morales to end the inning. On the night, the Gamecocks struck out a season’s high 18 times.
From the 9th thru 13th innings,Virginia had 13 baserunners. Price got out of bases loaded situations in the 10th, 12th and 13th innings. He got out of the 10th with a strikeout, and double plays bailed him out of the 12th and 13th. The 13th inning double play was particularly fortunate in that it was a line drive to Wingo at second who fired to Mooney to double up the runner at second.
The Gamecocks got two runners on in the 8th, 10th and 12th innings but could not come up with the clutch hit.
(Ray Tanner, Robert Beary, Adam Matthews, Brady Thomas, Matt Price, Michael Roth)
(Brian O’Connor, Branden Kline, Kyle Crockett, Cody Winiarski)
Price earned the win, his second of the CWS, to improve to 7-3. Winiarski took the loss and is 6-4. The Gamecocks are 53-14 while Virginia finishes its season at 56-12. Friday’s win was the sixth for USC this season in eight games against teams ranked #1 in the country.