Gamecocks fall in CWS finals; Arizona wins National Championship
I keep thinking I should be sad. Or maybe disappointed. Or possibly heartbroken. But I’m really none of those things. Of course I didn’t like to see the Gamecocks lose in the CWS finals. I didn’t like it in 2002 either. But just like in 2002, I am so proud of this team for making it so far. In 2002, we lost to a Texas team who was way out of our league. Last night, we lost to an Arizona team that had an unbelievable post-season run. A team who outplayed on us every level. And a team who most certainly deserved to win the National Championship. So Congratulations to the Arizona Wildcats on winning the 2012 CWS National Championship.
Last year, I had the pleasure to put down in words how wonderful life is with the Gamecocks in the world (apologies to Elton John). This year, despite a loss, I can say with certainty that I am so proud of the Gamecocks. This team was not supposed to any of the things they accomplished this year. Remember that 1-5 start in SEC play, including being swept at Kentucky? Showing a resilience that few thought they possessed, this team bounced back by taking 2 of 3 from Vanderbilt and Tennessee, then sweeping Mississippi State, Auburn, and Alabama. This team went from dead last in the SEC to playing in the CWS finals. In spite of the adversity, the Gamecocks kept a 22 post season game win streak going strong until a fateful June meeting with Arkansas. Even after that, South Carolina showed supreme resilience, winning 3 games in 33 hours to earn a hot date with Arizona in the finals.
And then it all came crashing down. Arizona, supremely well-rested and riding the arms of their starting pitchers, an utterly outstanding defense, and an offense that just kept producing, outplayed the Gamecocks on every level. It looked like the Gamecocks might have a shot at redemption on Monday night behind Michael Roth, who started his 8th career game at the CWS, setting a record. Roth kept the ‘Cocks in it, but once again the offense came up short, managing only 1 run on 3 hits. Those kind of offensive numbers won’t win championships. But that’s ok. We all knew it had to end sometime.
Although, I’m not positive that is has ended. As Roth, Christian Walker, Adam Matthews, Matt Price, and Evan Marzilli prepare to head off to their respective big league careers, they will surely take a moment to pass on the wisdom, dugout antics, and championship attitude to those rising up to take their places. As surely as Jordan Montgomery looked like Roth, Jr. on the mound against Arkansas, Tanner English, Joey Pankake, and Grayson Greiner will step up into that same sort of leadership role to carry on the tradition of determination, grit, and winning anyway that those of us in Columbia have come to expect. Yes, as our veteran players transition to the next phases of their respective careers, they will be passing the torch to the ones left behind.
The past three years have been something special. It’s been silly, fun, heart stopping, tear filled (in a good way), and exciting. So thank you to all of the young men who have made up the Gamecocks’ roster for the past three years. To all of you who played your hearts out to do something unprecedented in Carolina sports. To the heroes whose names will live on in South Carolina baseball lore – Whit Merrifield, Jackie Bradley Jr., Scott Wingo, Christian Walker, Michael Roth, Matt Price – and to those whose quiet contributions changed the course of games – Bayler Teal, Charlie Peters, Brady Thomas, Robert Beary, Evan Marzilli, Adam Matthews, Tyler Webb, John Taylor – we thank you. From the very bottom of our hearts, we thank you. Forever to Thee, indeed.
I would strongly suggest you check out this article by Garnet Report as well. A wonderful tribute to the Gamecocks.