CWS Recap: Day 4
Tuesday’s games featured an elimination contest between Cal and Texas A&M and a matchup that put the #1 national seed Virginia against the #4 national seed South Carolina. I was pretty excited for both of these games – Cal had some crazy momentum going, A&M had put on a good show against USC (and in the Super Regional against FSU), UVA was supposed to be virtually unbeatable, and I just love watching USC. I wasn’t disappointed.
Cal/Texas A&M: What it really came down to was that A&M just couldn’t push runs across when they needed to. They managed to plate three runs against freshman lefty Kyle Porter, but that was it, despite having 10 hits over the course of the game. Cal, on the other hand gave their starting pitcher everything he needed – some great defense (except for one error in the 6th) and enough runs to put the Bears comfortably ahead. And so we say good-bye to the Aggies. Final Score: Cal 7, Texas A&M 3.
South Carolina/UVA: I’ve said all year that UVA was overrated. I actually picked them to go 2 and out in the CWS. The Cavaliers were the team that was supposed to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents and steamroll even the most talented teams. And then I watched them in the Super Regionals, and they looked a little less invincible than the pollsters claimed. After barely pulling out a 9th inning victory in game 3 against UC-Irvine, I didn’t think they’d do much in Omaha. Then they went and handily beat Cal in the opening round, which lead them to a matchup with USC. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous that the Gamecocks were starting Colby Holmes. Not that Holmes is a bad pitcher, he’d just been a little inconsistent throughout the year. I was just worried that he wasn’t going to be on his game on Tuesday. Thankfully, I was wrong. Holmes gave us a solid start, allowing only one run (a home run by John Hicks). He got into a bit of a jam in the 5th when the defense lost a pop up in the lights, and the bases ended up loaded with one out. At that point, Ray Tanner went to the bullpen and brought in John Taylor, who got a ground ball back to the mound that lead to a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning. Taylor did his thing and pitched 4.1 scoreless innings, and then Matt Price came in to get the final out of the game. The offense did it’s job better than normal. They put up 3 runs in the first inning after several UVA errors. Shaking up the lineup a bit seemed to work wonders as the #3-6 hitters (Walker, JBJ, Morales, and Thomas) went 10-20 as the Gamecocks scored 7. This was probably one of the best games I’ve seen by the Gamecocks all year (and I have season tickets, so I saw a lot of games). The pitching was solid, the defense was spectacular, and the bats came alive. I hope that the Gamecocks can keep playing at this level of intensity. They’re going to need to when they play Friday against either Cal or UVA. Final Score: South Carolina 7, UVA 1.
A few random observations: This Cal team is definitely something special. As I was watching the game on Tuesday, it occurred to me that they are scarily similar to last year’s South Carolina CWS team. The Bears aren’t supposed to be here, they’ve won games that they shouldn’t have, they rely on spectacular defense to keep them in the games, their pitchers are stepping up when they need to (Michael Roth vs. Clemson, anyone?), and they are doing everything the can to get the runs they need. While I’d love to see UVA lose, I’m a little nervous to see the Golden Bears against USC.
John Taylor. We know his pitching is spectacular. We know he gets the outs when he needs them. But he also defends his position well. In the 5th inning, he flew off the mound to field the DP ground ball, and didn’t hesitate to throw home. It’s certainly not the first time Taylor has made an awesome defensive play either. We’re lucky he pitches for the Gamecocks.
UVA Coach Brian O’Connor. After admitting that USC played their best game of the year and that UVA beat themselves, he was asked if he thought that it was true that SEC baseball was just better than ACC baseball. He wasn’t too happy about that question, and got a little defensive. Guess what, Coach O’Connor? One of the 2 ACC teams got knocked out by an SEC team, and the other got flattened by an SEC team. I’d say that at least in this tournament, that means the SEC is playing better baseball. Probably comes from having stiffer competition throughout the year.
The Gamecocks. This is why this team is so special. Taking important practice time off to pay a visit to the Omaha Children’s Hospital is just amazing. And it’s not just something they do to improve their image. They actually care about these kids. Charlie Peters, who the Gamecocks met at the hospital while they were in Omaha in 2003, is now their bat boy for the tournament. It’s these little things and little connections that elevate this team in my estimation. Make sure you check out the pictures with the article too. Looks like Michael Roth may have found himself a new girlfriend.