Photo courtesty of gogamecocks.com.
I stood in my living room last night and watched the final out of the 2011 College World Series. When I saw Matt Price point to the sky and Jackie Bradley, Jr. draw a bead on the final out of the season, I clapped my hands a couple of times and gave a little fist pump. After a hug for the wife I sat back down and watched the celebration on the field.
This was in stark contrast to last year when Scott Wingo scored the game-winner against UCLA and I went temporarily insane.
As I watched ESPN I noticed something – like at my house, the celebration seemed slightly subdued. There was a dogpile, and plenty of hugs and high-fives to go around. Ray Tanner was obviously emotional in his interview, but in a different way than last year. I was trying to pin down why this was the case, then it hit me.
You know the old saying, “act like you’ve been there before”?
Well, we’ve been there before.
Don’t get me wrong, this year’s title isn’t any less satisfying or enjoyable. Quite the contrary. This run through the NCAA tournament was about as fun as any sporting event I’ve seen – full of storylines, drama and huge plays. And as I tweeted last night, this team is as likable as any I’ve ever followed.
I think the thing is, for Carolina baseball, this is the new normal. We have the best baseball program in the country, and I don’t think anyone can dispute that at the moment. Making it to the CWS is no longer the goal. Winning the whole darn thing is.
I like the new normal.
So, moving on…
As Tbone wrote yesterday, there were simply too many storylines to try to write a blog post. But I’m going to give it a try, in Tusings-style. My random thoughts over the last couple of days include:
- People kept talking about how cool it would be to win the last at Rosenblatt and the first at TDAP. And it is cool. Very cool.
- This year’s numbers – 10-0 in the NCAA Tournament; 16 straight tournament wins (NCAA record); 11 straight CWS wins (NCAA record). 16 and 11 won’t be broken any time soon.
- Pitching – USC gave up five earned runs in 51 innings pitched in the CWS for an ERA of 0.88. We gave up four runs in the first inning of the first game against Texas A&M, then six runs in 50 innings after that. Crazy.
- Maybe Ray Tanner isn’t quite in the company of Dedeaux, Garrido and Bertman just yet, but I would expect a statue of him at Ray Tanner Field at Carolina Stadium in the not too distant future. (Oh yeah, and at least name the field after him.)
- Scott Wingo is not the best baseball player in South Carolina history, but he might turn out to be the most memorable. His play on Monday night to save the game is as good as you will ever see with that much on the line. We will miss everything about that guy.
- More Wingo – I looked it up, and the CWS MOP batted .230 as a Freshman, .196 as a Sophomore, and .247 as a Junior. I don’t have his updated batting average after last night, but I think he’s been hovering around .330 recently. Wingo always had the reputation as all glove, no stick. He changed that dramatically this year and has given himself a great opportunity to play at the next level.
- Christian Walker is a badass, period. And if anyone knows what Tanner meant when he said Walker’s wrist looked like a “stack of pancakes”, please fill me in. I cannot for the life of me form an image that results in Walker playing last night.
- I wrote about Michael Roth last week, and he simply added to his legendary status since then. I truly believe he deserved the CWS MOP as much as Wingo. (Throw Matt Price in that mix as well.)
- Matt Price, what a clutch, clutch pitcher. He threw 95 pitches on Friday, 16 on Monday, and 15 last night on the biggest stage in college baseball, and gave up nada. He had us worried a few times, but as Roth said about him, “I think he gets into trouble just so he can pitch out of it.”
- Do you remember that John Taylor was our closer coming into the 2010 season? He was lit up early and blew a couple of saves, and Matt Price became the man. But this year? A million appearances with an ERA just barely north of one. We probably wouldn’t have made it this far without Every Day Johnny.
- Tyler Webb deserves a mention for his performance on Monday. For the better part of two months he was coming out of the pen to face a lefty or two and then was done. His 2 1/3 scoreless on Monday night gave us a chance to win. I hope he can carry that over into a weekend job next year, he certainly has the stuff.
- Robert Beary’s backhanded, short-hop snag of Wingo’s wide throw on Monday night was spectacular and so far underrated.
- Peter Mooney, we hardly knew ye, but it sure was fun while it lasted. I expect him to move on, but he kept up the tradition of great South Carolina shortstops for at least a year.
- ESPN, Dennis Dodd, etc., please quit talking about the bats. Everyone had to play with them.
Now to go order my t-shirt.
Too much drama. Too many heroes. Too much quintessential fighting gamecock spirit.
Words fail me, which is a big admission from a loudmouth blogger.
The Post and Courier‘s Travis Haney said it best via tweet:
I agree with Haney, but, but, I wanna say MORE.
Aw, heck, just watch the ESPN highlights – as bad a Mike Patrick was last night (and he was bad), the actions of these Gamecocks speak louder than any words of mine.
Well, I’m out of rational explanations for this run the Gamecocks are on, so I guess Coach O’Connor’s quote about as scientific as we’re going to get.
They just find a way.
“The way” last night just happened to be a little more circuitous than normal, but I guess that makes the journey just a little more enjoyable, right?
Last night began with The Curious Case of Danny Hultzen. The number two pick in the recent Major League baseball draft came out of the gates channeling Sandy Koufax. The lefty went through our lineup with ease, striking out eight of the ten Gamecock batters he saw.
But somewhere beneath his 94 mph fastball and wicked slider a virus was working, causing Hultzen to puke between innings and look a little like the walking dead while he was on the mound. He was replaced to start the fourth.
Good on Brian O’Connor for not risking Hultzen’s first-round bonus money, but why the heck did he stay in the dugout the rest of the game? Why wasn’t he in the clubhouse lying down, getting an IV, purging his body of evil? He actually looked quite fresh around the sixth or seventh inning, and was even on the top step of the UVa dugout after Adam Matthews scored the winning run. Travis Haney speculated (on some speculation) that perhaps Hultzen was having some elbow discomfort, which for the kid’s sake I hope isn’t true. He has a chance to be spectacular.
In any case, the Gamecocks took advantage immediately and scored two runs off of reliever Danny Crockett. The two runs were a little lucky as Brady Thomas’ double was misplayed by the UVa left fielder. (Find a way, right?)
Crockett was money the rest of his four innings of work, and Michael Roth was Michael Roth, as usual.
The real fun began when John Taylor came in to pitch the 8th for the Gamecocks. An E5 put a runner on for the Cavs, and an uncharacteristic E6 by Peter Mooney allowed the Cavs to tie it up.
It was as this point the momentum shifted, and you started to feel like maybe our CWS magic was fading. As Matt Price’s pitch count grew, and we couldn’t find a clutch hit against Branden Kline (also spectacular) with runners is scoring position, I started to think ahead.
No way we could come back from a loss like this. UVa would walk over us Saturday night. Our pitching is screwed, our bats had gone silent, it was just a matter of time before the Cavs would push a run across. I started to reflect on the past year, and what a great ride it had been.
Then Matt Price wiggled out of bases loaded jam in the 12th with a 6-4-3 double play. After another scoreless frame for the Gamecocks, Price was back in the soup again in the 13th, this time a bases loaded jam with nobody out. It would be absolutely impossible to get out of this one.
Yet he did.
A strikeout followed by a liner to Wingo turned the absolutely impossible into reality, and as Mooney stepped on second I thought to myself, “OK, win NOW.”
And aided by two bizarre errors by the UVa pitcher, we did. I would have never guessed a single and two bunts would win if for us, but I guess the old script for this team was thown out a long time ago.
The new script is simply one page.
In the center of that page are the words “FIND A WAY”.
This is your weekend CWS open thread.
– Les Miles doesn’t need another nickname. He’s been the Mad Hatter, the Ball Clocker, the Grass Eater, and the Kick Faker. But after watching this video, I hereby decree, mutatis mutandis, that TRC shall henceforth call him the Honey Badger (link slightly NSFW for language). I get that the LSU mascot is not a badger, and that while Les did coach in the Big Ten, it wasn’t at
Minnesota Wisconsin. Nevertheless, it’s clear to me from the above vid that this Honey Badger doesn’t care, this Honey Badger doesn’t give a $#*!.
– Victor Hampton was dismissed from the team, reinstated, and then immediately suspended. Or something. Its not clear what’s going on here, as we have an SID that is the sports equivalent of Newt Gingrich’s lone remaining campaign staffer. Why do we even know that he was dismissed in the first place? Why do we know that he was reinstated? Didn’t this sort of thing happen all the time over past summers, and all we were told was that “workout participation wasn’t 100 percent?” Regardless, young Vic needs to keep his head up, and know that some of us agree with the old Honey Badger on your past transgressions – we don’t give a $#*!.
Well said, 2chains, well said.
–The SEC should just drop the pretense and hold its conference baseball tourney in Omaha. An SEC team has played for the CWS title for what, four straight years? Won the last two, and now has three of the final four in this year. Little question for you to ponder: would this be what a college football playoff would look like? Start with 16 or 32 teams and end up with a bunch of SEC squads facing off? I think it might. And since the conference has now won 500 straight national titles in football, perhaps we shouldn’t give a $#*! what method the BCS uses.
– CTU is apparently putting together a remarkable recruiting class, at least at this early juncture. Just like last year. And the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that. All I can say is that I trust our staff, and also remember numbers like 34-17 and 29-7. I therefore don’t give a $#*!about a bunch of unsigned highschool juniors.
Is it safe to say that David Roth doesn’t give a $#*! about his job, and would walk through @*&$^# for his son. Good on you, David.
Oh, and while it might be some cheesy $#*!, the following proposal is heartily REC’D.
Before the 2010 College World Series, Michael Roth was a bit player for the South Carolina baseball team. He was a situational lefty out of the Gamecock bullpen, and occasional pinch-hitter with batting practice power who rarely, if ever, delivered.
When Ray Tanner announced Roth would start against Clemson in the 2010 CWS I thought he had lost it. I think maybe even Tanner thought Tanner had lost it. He wanted three solid innings. Then four. Then five. Then six. When Roth continued into the seventh we knew something special was happening. And we know how the 2010 story ended.
One year later Michael Roth is a Gamecock legend. And I don’t use that word lightly. What Roth has done from June 2010 to June 2011 is bona fide legendary. From mid-inning bullpen specialist to All-American is simply not believable if we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes.
The reason I bring this up now is because of the territory Roth crossed into on Sunday night. He gave up four runs (three of which came on a bases-loaded triple) but all the runs were unearned. He has not given up an earned run since May 13. And his ERA dropped below one to 0.97.
That is insane. A good ERA…check that…a GREAT ERA for a starting pitcher in college baseball with 100-plus innings to his credit is 2.50. Below two is nuts. An ERA around 1.50 is reserved for closers who throw a lot fewer innings.
But 0.97? Again, insane.
- So, Devonte Holloman was arrested Saturday night for DUI. Holloman was immediately suspended from the team and the message board debates began to rage ranging from “DUI is unforgivable, kick him off the team” to “it’s his first offense and he’s a good kid”, without much in between. Look, driving under the influence is a dangerous, stupid thing to do, no doubt. Holloman deserves punishment, and it should be relatively severe. He should not, however, be kicked off the team. I expect a long, hot summer of step climbing for Holloman, and a one to two-game suspension to start the season.
- Phil Kornblut tweeted this afternoon “What does it take to get permanently kicked off the USC football team?” Instead of asking the twitterverse, he should probably track down some guys with first-hand knowledge like Demetris Summers, Kerry Bonds, Dakota Walker, Quintin Richardson, Moe Thompson, K.T. Mainord or Weslye Saunders. Short memories some folks have.
- Speaking of getting kicked off the team, apparently Victor Hampton said or did the right things to Coach Spurrier to get reinstated. Good for him. I hope he keeps clean and has a positive impact on the football team. But chalk him up as another guy with zero chances left.
- I heard Mark Schlabach on the radio this morning here in Atlanta, and he said he “gets” why some people are picking Georgia to win the East this year. But he also said he got it a lot more before they lost their starting left and right tackles to injury. He wrapped up by saying he wouldn’t bet too much on a team relying heavily on the contributions of a true freshman running back and a junior college nose tackle. Finally, some sense?
Ah, well, while we’re waiting for football season, how about let’s win another baseball title to pass the time.
I’m still getting used to this. I can admit the University of South Carolina is a national powerhouse in baseball. Perhaps, at the moment, the best and most stable baseball program in the country. But still, I doubt.
I doubted we could bounce back after losing two of three to Florida to close out the 2010 regular season. I KNEW we were dead meat when we went 0-2 in the SEC Tournament the following weekend. I was certain our season was over when we lost to Oklahoma in the first game of the CWS. No way we could beat Arizona State, and certainly not red-hot CTU twice. UCLA’s pitching was just too strong for us. So we won the first game, it would still be an uphill climb. Wingo on third with one out? We stranded runners on third all the time, why shouldn’t this be one of those times? Merrifield had looked terrible at the plate all game…
This year Florida was just loaded, no way we could beat them. Vandy too. Heck, we lost a series to Ole Miss. No Matthews? That hurts. No Jackie? No chance. The NCAA screwed us in our regional draw. UConn has two stud pitchers, and draft picks galore. Christian Walker hasn’t hit a home run since April…
Am I sick? Or just a Gamecock fan? What’s the opposite of rose-colored glasses? Because that’s me.
Crap, the number one national seed is in our side of draw in Omaha. (Pssst…I like our chances.)
- The dogpile: you buying or selling? I love the idea of the dogpile, but after about 30 seconds always look to see if someone is holding a body part in an uncomfortable way. The one after our second victory over UConn was about as violent as I’ve seen, and only have to think back to UCLA last year to wonder if it’s worth it.
- Speaking of the UConn center fielder, I can only think of one catch better than the one George Springer made against us Sunday. Willie Mays? Heck, no, that’s the most overrated play in the history of baseball.
The debate about the greatest catch ever begins and ends with one guy: Jim Edmonds. (Sorry, the MLB Gestapo apparently has stripped the internet of the greatest catch ever.
- The following theoretical comes from T-bone: Hyman to Tennessee as AD, Ray Tanner promoted to USC AD, and Chad Holbrooke as new USC baseball coach. Would you take that deal? For me, 3-4 years from now, yes. Today, no.
- Obligatory pile on LeBron James bullet point – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!