Well. I’m officially out of the business of making predictions, as I have really been falling flat this year. It’s been three great days of baseball, and I’m pretty sure today’s games will be equally awesome. Today’s games are at 5 and 9 p.m. EST on ESPN2 or ESPN3.com.
We’re going to recap this out-of-order, because this is a Gamecocks’ blog, so we should start with them.
Day Two, Bracket Two:
Let’s be honest. This bracket is the reason you’re reading this. It’s the one that features 3 SEC teams and the 2 time defending National Champion Gamecocks (saying that will never get old). We’ll get to the Gamecocks shortly, so just bear with me…
In the first game, Kent State, the only non-SEC team in this bracket, got a crash course in SEC baseball. They were held to 4 hits and 1 run by Arkansas’ formidable pitching roster. Arkansas, on the other hand, had a 3-0 lead going into the 6th inning. By the time the 9th rolled around, the Hogs were on top 8-1. And that’s how it ended. Kent State now has to play Florida in an elimination game. This could get ugly.
Now onto what was probably the most highly anticipated CWS game ever: South Carolina at Florida. The Gamecocks and the Gators are old frenemies. They played each other 3 times in the regular season, with Florida winning twice. Then in the SEC tournament, the Gators won again. The Gamecocks put a quick stop to that bit of Florida domination with a 7-3 win on Saturday night. Michael Roth, as we’ve all come to expect, had a pretty stellar outing, going 6 1/3 and allowing 3 runs on 7 hits. Tyler Webb came in and worked his magic to get 2 quick outs to end the 7th, and then it was Matt Price time. Price pitched the last two innings, allowing 2 hits and striking out 3, on his way to earning his 12th save this season, and setting the SEC record for career saves at 42.
But let’s be honest. Price wouldn’t even have been in the game if it hadn’t been for some stellar defense and timely hitting from the Gamecocks. Florida scored 2 runs in the 3rd, to give themselves the early lead. The Gators’ pitcher, Brian Johnson, was dealing, and for awhile it looked like the ‘Cocks might be headed for a date with Kent State. And then the 5th inning happened. The Gamecocks exploded for 5 runs to take the lead for good. Evan Marzilli led off the inning with a double, which Christian Walker followed with a single. Adam Matthews walked to load the bases. Erik Payne came up and smacked a triple to right center field to give the Gamecocks a 3-2 edge. LB Dantzler then launched a double to center field, scoring Payne. Dantzler was bunted to 3rd by Tanner English, and then scored on a single from Chase Vergason. 5-2 Gamecocks headed to the bottom of the 5th. Florida scored in the bottom of the inning, but that was it. Thanks to a bit of Florida self-destruction, the Gamecocks tacked on a pair in the 9th after a couple wild pitches and errant throws. Gamecocks take game 1 from the top-seeded Gators, 7-3.
Now onto the defense. While Florida was imploding, South Carolina was diving all over the field. Literally. It started with Michael Roth diving off the mound to catch a pop-up bunt. Then Chase Vergason got in on the action, flinging himself sideways to keep a ball from leaving the infield, and still making the play at 2nd base. Then Dante Rosenberg got in on the action, falling face first to the side of home plate to cut off a wild throw. And then there was Evan Marzilli, who leaped halfway across the outfield to complete an outstanding catch to start the 8th inning. The catch was good enough for the number 6 spot on Sports Center, and spawned all kinds of witticisms like the one that captions this picture:
In case you had something better to do than watch Gamecock baseball, you can watch the catch here:
Once again, the Gamecocks showed that they know how to play in Omaha. The win over Florida upped South Carolina’s post-season win streak to 22, and 12 consecutive CWS wins. What an amazing run.
Florida will face Kent State in an elimination game today at 5 p.m. South Carolina and Arkansas will meet at 9 p.m. Both games will be on ESPN2 or ESPN3.com The loser of the South Carolina/Arkansas game will play the winner of Florida/Kent State on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN3.com.
Bracket One games after the jump….
Today is the day. Day 1 of the College World Series. The start of what I consider to be the single greatest sporting event of the year. And for the first time in a couple of years, I’m hard pressed to make predictions. All 8 teams in the field are awesome. There aren’t any that are clearly doomed to the 2 and out fate. There are also aren’t really any teams who have a lock on playing in the title series. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to two weeks of phenomenal, close, well-played baseball games. Each of these teams is going to need to play essentially flawless baseball if they want to win. So let’s break down Bracket #1 (Bracket #2 coming later when I have a bit more time):
UCLA Bruins: UCLA (47-14) breezed through the Los Angeles super regional, defeating TCU 6-2 and 4-1. The Bruins have been on fire, boasting a 5-0 record in the postseason to this point, and a 9-game winning streak. UCLA shared the regular season Pac-12 title with fellow CWS team Arizona. As a team, the Bruins boast a .309 batting average and 23 home runs. On the flip side, UCLA has a respectable team ERA of 3.13.
Stony Brook Seawolves: Anyone who watched the Baton Rouge super regional knows that Stony Brook is not a team to be trifled with. They lost game 1 after 12 innings and a day long rain delay. Game 2 featured a fantastic pitching effort from Tyler Johnson, and the Seawolves won 3-1. Stony Brook dominated game 3, ultimately defeating LSU 7-2 to earn a spot in Omaha. The Seawolves boast the best record of the remaining teams at 52-13. While ESPN will have you calling the Seawolves a “Cinderella Story” – they are, after all, only the 2nd #4 regional seed to make it to Omaha (the other being Fresno State in 2008, who went on to win the title that year) – but the Seawolves have been dominating the America East conference for the past few years. Pair that with some incredibly hot bats (look out for Willie Carmona and Travis Jankowski, the latter being from this humble blogger’s hometown in PA), and solid pitching, and Stony Brook has a legitimate shot at a title run. And as a fan of the underdog, if my Gamecocks can’t win it all, I’ll be pulling hard for the Seawolves.
Florida State Seminoles: FSU (48-15) scored 25 runs in 2 games against Stanford in the Tallahassee super regional. Seven of those runs came against Stanford ace and #8 overall draft pick, Marc Appel. FSU seems to have caught fire at the right time. The only question is whether or not their bats will continue to dismantle pitchers in Omaha. My thought is that they will. Don’t be surprised to see the Seminoles battling with Stony Brook for a spot in the title series.
Arizona Wildcats: The Wildcats (43-17) held on to win a tough game 1 in the 10th inning against St. John’s. Then they came back in game 2 and won handily, defeating St. John’s 7-4, to win the Tuscon super regional. Like most teams who make it to Omaha, Arizona got hot at the right time. That said, in my opinion, they are the weakest link in the field. The Wildcats rely a bit too much on clutch hits, which are going to be at a premium against a smoking FSU team. Don’t be surprised to see a Sunday evening game between the Pac-12 co-champions, UCLA and Arizona.
Game 1 of the CWS, between UCLA and Stony Brook, is at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN2 & ESPN3.com. Game 2, between FSU and Arizona, starts at 9 p.m. on the same channels. The losers of each game will meet on Sunday at 5 p.m., and the winners will play on Sunday at 9 p.m. Full coverage and brackets are available through the NCAA’s website.