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Gamecocks use great defense, capitalize on errors to beat Gators
Omaha, NE (Sports Network) - South Carolina's defense was spectacular in the late innings, while Florida's sputtered. The result is the Gamecocks are one win away from successfully defending their College World Series title.
Christian Walker, whose availability to play Monday was in question because of a fractured left wrist, scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning thanks to a pair of throwing errors in South Carolina's 2-1 victory over the Gators in the opener of the best-of-three championship series.
It was a case of deja vu for the Gamecocks. On Friday, Virginia pitcher Cody Winiarski made two throwing errors in the bottom of the 13th, allowing South Carolina to take a 3-2 victory and move into the championship series.
Florida loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth, but came up empty thanks to spectacular defense from second baseman Scott Wingo, whose RBI single tied the game in the eighth. Left fielder Jake Williams threw a runner out at the plate to end the 10th inning.
Walker singled up the middle with one out in the 11th. Greg Larson then replaced Nick Maronde on the mound for the Gators. Walker stole second and was on his way to third when the throw from catcher Mike Zunino sailed into the outfield. Bryson Smith's throw from center field bounced at third and into the stands, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Matt Price worked out of trouble in the bottom of the 11th to secure South Carolina's NCAA-record 15th consecutive tournament win dating to last season. It was their 10th straight win at the College World Series.
Brian Johnson singled and pinch-runner Paul Wilson advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Tyler Thompson then struck out and Daniel Pigott grounded out to shortstop to end it.
Game 2 is slated for Tuesday, again at TD Ameritrade Park between these Southeastern Conference rivals. The Gamecocks will be the designated home team.
Peter Mooney walked to start the eighth inning, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Robert Beary and to third on a fly ball to center from Evan Marzilli. Wingo then grounded a ball past starting pitcher Hudson Randall and a diving Josh Adams at second base. The single up the middle plated the tying run.
"Randall, he had my number all night," Wingo said. "That last at-bat I think swung through two sliders and I just said to myself 'stay late, if I get beat inside, I get beat inside.' He threw another curve ball and I hit it up the middle."
The Gators were in a position to win the game as they loaded the bases with nobody out against John Taylor in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a walk to Zunino, a single by Johnson and an intentional walk to Adams. That's when Wingo single-handedly kept the game tied. With the infield playing in, the senior second baseman made a diving stop on a ball hit by Thompson. Wingo's throw home was wide, but Beary made a great stop on a short-hop and stretch to get the force play. Wingo then cleanly fielded a bouncer from Pigott, fired home for the force and the throw to first was barely in time for the inning-ending double play.
"We need to elevate the ball there, and to their credit Wingo makes the great play," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "That was probably the most pivotal part of the game."
The Gamecocks turned away Florida in the 10th thanks to more great defense. Cody Dent singled leading off and Preston Tucker was intentionally walked with two down. Zunino then singled sharply to left field. Williams came up throwing and Beary was in perfect position to block the plate. Dent tried going around the catcher, but was tagged out.
"I had one of those weird intuitions that the ball was going to get hit to me, honestly, and I was just ready to make an accurate throw and try to get it in the air and make it have a close chance for a play," said Williams. "The ball was sure enough hit to me and I got a good throw on it."
The Gators broke through in the third inning. Thompson walked, went to second on a groundout and made it to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Dent's fly ball tight to the line in left field.
Last year, Florida claimed the SEC regular season title by beating the Gamecocks twice in a best-of-three series. However, it was South Carolina coming out on top in the CWS. The Gamecocks closed out Rosenblatt Stadium last year winning the national title, the first baseball championship in school history. They defeated UCLA in consecutive games in the 2010 title series.
One thing is for sure - an SEC team will be crowned national champion for the third straight season. LSU beat Texas for the 2009 title.
South Carolina starter Forrest Koumas allowed three hits over 5 2/3 innings, while Randall fanned six over 7 2/3 frames.
06/28 02:10:06 ET
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