Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The journey to a national title

Gamecock fans have been waiting for a long time to celebrate and the 2010 USC baseball team's national championship trophy should be front and center in the South Carolina trophy case. Ray Tanner's path to a national title is a testament of what it takes to be the best in the nation. There were so many times where the Gamecocks stared the end of the season right in the face and decided that they weren't done yet.

Friday, June 4th: Bucknell 5 South Carolina 1 heading to the bottom of the 6th

It's the opening game of the Columbia regional. The #1 seeds have a big advantage as they play an automatic bid qualifier. The Bison had the Gamecocks on the ropes and it's awfully tough to play your way from the loser's bracket to a regional title on the first weekend of the NCAA's. Everyone was on upset alert when the score came in. What did USC do? They didn't panic and took care of business and roared from behind to win 9-5. Michael Roth pitched 3 plus innings of shutout ball to settle things down. The Gamecocks went on to cruise the rest of the way and beat the Citadel and Virginia Tech to win the regional.

Saturday, June 12th: South Carolina 4 Coastal Carolina 3 in the 8th inning. CCU has the bases loaded and nobody out

The Chanticleers were ready to bust the dam and win their first ever game in the Super Regional. If CCU simply put the ball in play they were going to at least draw even if not take control of the game. Ray Tanner brought in Matt Price who proceeded to strike out Chance Gilmore and Taylor Motter and then got a bounce back to the mound from Dan Bowman. Price pitches a flawless ninth and the Gamecocks take game one.

Sunday, June 13th: Coastal Carolina 9 South Carolina 7, 2 outs in the 8th inning

CCU just got a double play and were four outs away from drawing even in the best of three series. Austin Fleet had come on in relief in the 6th inning for CCU and was probably going to give way to Anthony Meo in the 9th to shut the door. Jackie Bradley, Jr. grinded out a walk. Adrian Morales doubled to bring the winning run to the plate. Christian Walker launched a three run bomb that put the Gamecocks ahead 10-9. Everyone will talk about the Walker blast and rightfully so, but it was Bradley, Jr. who worked a full count. He was one strike away from inning over and likely game over for the Gamecocks (sounds a little like later on against Oklahoma doesn't it?) The Gamecocks punched their ticket to Omaha with a 10-9 win.

Sunday, June 20th: Oklahoma 4 South Carolina 3 - FINAL
The Gamecocks had their chances to win this game, but simply left too many runners on base. After enduring nine hours to play through rain delays it looked like it was going to be two and done. Surely, the Gamecocks couldn't knock off #1 seed Arizona State and then endure five more wins. That was the thinking on Sunday evening, but as we learned it was the last loss of the year for USC.

Thursday, June 24th: Oklahoma 2 South Carolina 1 heading to the bottom of the 12th

Robert Beary had a single and stole second, but the Gamecocks had two outs and Jackie Bradley, Jr was one strike away from USC packing their bags and heading for home. But Bradley grinded it out again and laced a base hit to right to score Beary and tie the game. Walker walked and Brady Thomas delivered the heroics in a 3-2 walk off win.

Friday, June 25th: Pregame Clemson vs South Carolina
The Gamecocks need two wins to reach the national championship series and Clemson is in the driver's seat. Blake Cooper pitched on Thursday and Sam Dyson can't throw until Saturday. Ray Tanner is hoping that Michael Roth can give him three good innings and that the bullpen can piece together a win. Roth goes on to throw three good innings, then three more and then a final three. A complete game gem that gives the Gamecocks all the momentum. Dyson goes on to stifle Clemson and the Gamecocks reach the national championship series.

Tuesday, June 29th: UCLA 1 South Carolina 1 in the 9th inning
The Bruins load the bases, but Matt Price is there again with the clutch strikeout. Just like the CCU Super Regional all over again. Price delivers when he has to and once again you feel like UCLA used up their last chance and it was South Carolina's destiny to win.

You know how the rest of the story goes. Whit Merrifield goes the opposite way, Scott Wingo leaps towards home and the Gamecocks are national champs. Seven times during the post-season the Gamecocks were on the verge of heading south. In the end they came through each and every time and that's why they are national champions.

This Gamecock team had the star power with Blake Cooper and Jackie Bradley, Jr, and it had the players who rose to the occasion like Roth and Bobby Haney. But more important than all of that was the intangibles. Tanner talked about it and it rang true. Working the count with two strikes, making great defensive plays when they needed to and never giving up.

Tanner loves the college baseball game and knows what it means to simply make it to Omaha. Now he has won the last CWS game ever at Rosenblatt Stadium and will be a legend in South Carolina Gamecock circles for generations to come.

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