In honor of the 5-year anniversary of South Carolina’s 2010 baseball National Championship, TRC is briefly recapping each game of the magical postseason run. Today we look at USC’s incredible comeback win over Oklahoma.
There was really not much in the history of South Carolina sports to foreshadow what happened on the night of June 24, 2010. For the most part, Gamecock sports was characterized predominantly by its mediocrity. There were some very good teams, but with very few exceptions (women’s track anyone?), never great teams. There were bushels of average teams, and downright awful teams from time to time.
But on this night, something unexpected and quite wonderful happened – a great team emerged in Omaha. We didn’t exactly know it at the time as we were still in loser’s bracket hell, facing the long odds of beating a red-hot Clemson team twice with a severely depleted pitching staff. But in retrospect, June 24, 2010 changed everything.
If you’re like me, you’ve seen Jackie Bradley’s game-tying and Brady Thomas’s game-winning singles innumerable times. I’ve linked the entire bottom of the 12th inning below, and it’s worth a watch. Again. And again.
For a second time in the 2010 CWS, USC struggled to score runs against the Sooners, finally squeezing across a run in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game at 1-1. When OU’s Tyler Ogle homered off of Ethan Carter to lead off the 12th inning to give the Sooners a 2-1 lead, things looked bleak for the Gamecocks.
But that only set the stage two of the most clutch hits in school history. A few things of note from the bottom of that 12th inning:
- The Gamecocks were facing Oklahoma closer Ryan Duke, who needed one save to become the all-time leader in that category in school history. He had tied the school record with a save against USC the previous Sunday night.
- Free-swinger Robert Beary was the first batter of the bottom of the 12th, and looked completely over-matched on the first two pitches from Duke. Duke blew a fastball by him, then completely caught him off guard with a breaking pitch on the outside corner. Obviously, Beary made up his mind that Duke was going to come back with the fastball. He did, and instead wasting it outside like he was supposed to, he missed inside and Beary laced it into left for a leadoff hit.
- Freshman Evan Marzilli was a revelation in Omaha, but he had his worst at-bat of the CWS trying to move Beary to second. (Ray Tanner’s reaction after Marzilli’s first bunt attempt is priceless.) After Marzilli struck out, Beary took things into his own hands and swiped second. Whit Merrifield then popped out to third to put the Gamecocks one out away from elimination. (Don’t worry, if I remember correctly Merrifield gets a clutch hit in a later game.)
- Jackie Bradley was next up, and was 0-5 as he stood in the box after starting the CWS 5-8 with two home runs and six RBI. With the count 2-2, Duke came inside with a fastball that was close enough that you see Duke pump his fist and audibly yell “YEAH!”. It was a ball.
- On the next pitch JBJ calmly guided one through the right side to bring home Beary with the tying run. It was a great, clutch hit with our season down to its last strike, but the winning run was still 270 feet away.
- Jeffery Jones was next up as a pinch-hitter and a shell-shocked Duke walked him on four pitches. Jones was a muscle-bound dude who was a significant contributor during the regular season, but this was his only contribution during the CWS that I can remember. (Also absent except in celebration videos – Nick Ebert, who was second team all-SEC in 2009.)
- Almost as much as what happened next on the field, I remember the words of Sean McDonough: “We spoke with Coach Tanner this morning and he said Brady Thomas always gives you a very competitive at bat, and he is a clutch hitter. Couldn’t have a bigger spot to come up to in the clutch for South Carolina.”
The next sound you hear is the ping of the bat and the ball shooting into center field.
“AND SOUTH CAROLINA WINS, AND THEY’RE STILL ALIVE”
If Beary, Bradley, or Thomas hadn’t come up with those big hits, it wouldn’t have been terribly shocking to us as Gamecock fans. It would’ve just been another very good team that came up short. Instead, all those clutch at-bats gave us hope that something special might be going on.
Until we looked in the bullpen and saw the wreckage that was left of our pitching staff.
NEXT: CWS Game 4 – The Situational Lefty