CWS Recap: Day 6
Friday was the semi-final round of the CWS. If the 1-loss teams won, they would live to see another day and play for a shot at the title on Saturday. If the undefeated teams won, we would be baseball free until Monday, when the championship series starts. In two games that were absolutely worthy of a Final Four situation, fans saw some unbelievable baseball. These were two games that came down to the wire, and could have gone either way until the bitter end.
Vandy/Floria: I really thought Vandy was going to come out swinging and take this one from the Gators. Vandy had only beaten Florida once in 5 tries, and they were due. This was their first CWS appearance, and they had the drive and determination to see it through. Florida, however, was well-rested thanks to their stay in the winner’s bracket, and refused to let their SEC opponent beat them. Vandy drew first blood on a run in the 1st, just as I expected. But by the 6th, Florida had scored 4. Vandy loaded the bases in both the 7th and 8th and manage 3 more runs to tie the game. Florida responded with 2 more runs in the bottom of the 8th. The ‘Dores couldn’t get anything going in the 9th, and Florida pulled out the win. It made for some exciting baseball. These two teams were so evenly matched, at least on paper, that it seems ridiculous that Vandy hasn’t won more against Florida this season. But that’s the beauty of baseball. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. And so Vandy heads back to Nashville, and Florida gets in some more practice before starting the championship series on Monday. Final score: Florida 6, Vandy 4.
UVA/South Carolina: I admit it. I didn’t think USC would win this game. I felt sure that UVA was furious about getting stomped by the Gamecocks on Tuesday, and wasn’t about to let it happen again. For awhile it looked like I was right. Both teams threw their ace pitchers to start the game – Michael Roth for USC and #2 overall draft pick Danny Hultzen for UVA. Hultzen made the Gamecocks look bad. And not just bad. Almost like a little league team. And not one of of those little league teams that makes the Little League World Series. He struck out the first 6 Gamecock batters, gave up a hit to Peter Mooney to start the 3rd, got a fly out, and then 2 more strikeouts. Yes. That was 8 strikeouts in 3 innings. Danny Hultzen – Seattle called. They would like you to start in their game tomorrow. It was not looking good for the Gamecocks, as Roth gave up his 1st earned run in something ridiculous like 38 innings in the 2nd. The Cavaliers were up 1-0, and with Hultzen on the mound, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Gamecocks. And then we found out that Hultzen had the flu. How can you not admire a pitcher who, while feeling like death, still strikes out 8 batters in 3 innings? And then the unthinkable happened. UVA lifted Hultzen from the game (his face did match the white pants he was wearing, so maybe it was for the benefit of his health). Kyle Crockett came in in relief, and the Gamecocks were able to string a couple of hits together in the 4th to take the lead, 2-1. And all of the cameras panned to Danny Hultzen, sitting in the dugout, shaking his head in disbelief as his hardwork came crashing down around him. Of all the days to be sick, that poor kid had to be cursing his immune system. If he had stayed in, I think this game would have had a much different outcome. UVA tied the game in the 8th after a Gamecock error. And then it was Matt Price time. The Gamecocks brought in their closer to finish the 8th, and presumably the game. Except that they couldn’t score again until the bottom of the 13th. Price pitched a season high 5.2 innings while striking out 5. His counterpart on the UVA side was closer Branden Kline. Kline threw 5 scoreless innings with 7 Ks. The two closers combined for 202 pitches and 10.2 innings of work. Sounds like numbers you would associate with starters instead. UVA finally pulled Kline in the 13th, and reliever Cody Winiarski gave up the winning run after he made two throwing errors. Adam Matthews sailed home for the Gamecocks, and finally, after 13 grueling innings of spectacular baseball, South Carolina took home the victory. But hats off to UVA. They looked like a completely different team from the one we played on Tuesday. They played tough, and it’s almost a shame that they had to end their CWS run on an error. Almost a shame, because I really needed a Gamecock victory. Final Score: South Carolina 3, UVA 2 in 13 innings.
A few random observations: CWS Final. Not only are the 2 teams left standing from the same conference, but they are also from the same division. That says an awful lot about the strength of the SEC East this year.
Matt Price. I’d like to send an open letter from Gamecock Nation to Matt Price to beg him not to sign an MLB contract, and instead stay at Carolina for another year. Anyone who can work through 3 bases-loaded jams in extra innings so that his team wins, should be celebrated. Maybe we can rename the bullpen as “Matt Price bullpen at Ray Tanner Field at Carolina Stadium.” You know, after both Price and Tanner leave us. Despite taking years off of my life every time he pitches, I am constantly grateful that Price is a Gamecock.
South Carolina’s record. USC has a record 14 consecutive NCAA tournament wins. And 10 straight wins in Omaha. The teams from the past 2 years are certainly something special.
Monday. The CWS Championship Series starts Monday at 8 p.m. USC took 2 of 3 from Florida during the regular season, but both were hard fought games. I don’t expect this series to be anything less than amazing baseball. And I fully expect it to go 3 games, as much as I don’t want it to.