South Carolina wins National Championship with 2-1 victory over UCLA

WhitMerrifieldSouthCarolina The South Carolina Gamecocks got an 11th inning RBI single from Whit Merrifield to drive home Scott Wingo from third base to give South Carolina their first national championship in school history.

 

Both squads got excellent starts from their starting pitchers. South Carolina sent Michael Roth to the hill as he went five innings giving up six hits, one earned run, while walking two batters and striking out three. The only run came across in the fifth inning when Trevor Brown got a lead off single. He would move up to second on a Steve Rodriguez sacrifice bunt and would score on a Niko Gallego RBI single to give the Bruins the 1-0 lead after the top of the fifth inning.

Michael Roth talked about starting two games at the College World Series, whether he would have dreamed of starting in Omaha, and how long he expected to go on Tuesday:

I was planning on going nine innings again. You know, never would I have ever thought that I was going to start a game here in Omaha. But you know it’s been great. I’m honored that they called upon me.

And you know it’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful feeling to be a starting pitcher of the final game in Omaha.

UCLA’s Brett Krill talked about facing Roth tonight saying:

Yeah, it’s definitely different. But I gotta give the guy credit, because he hit his spots and he pitched well. And he pitched in and out and he kept our hitters off balance.
But, you know, whoever is out there, we’re going to put a plan of attack and we’re going to do our best to go after him. And he threw well. So that’s all I’ve got.

 

UCLA starting pitcher Rob Rasmussen battled throughout his six innings of work giving up six hits but did not allow a run as he was able to keep the Gamecocks off the scoreboard. The Gamecocks would eventually break through in the bottom of the eighth inning for a run off of UCLA reliever Erik Goeddel. Robert Berry would score from second base on an error by the UCLA first baseman to tie the game up at 1.

The game remained tied at one until the bottom of the 11th inning when South Carolina had Scott Wingo lead the inning off with a walk. He would move up to second on a passed ball and move to third on a Evan Marzilli bunt. UCLA head coach John Savage would decide to pitch to Whit Merrifield with only one out and two bases empty and it came back to haunt him. Merrifield would take a fastball on the outside corner to right field to bring home Wingo and give the Gamecocks the 2-1 victory.

Whit Merrifield talked about his final at bat saying:

Yeah, I was a little surprised that they didn’t walk me and Jackie to load the bases and maybe force a double-play ball. But, you know, when I saw the catcher squat down, I knew I had something to prove. They wanted to get me out.

And in that situation, you’re trying to get a pitch elevated. And you’re trying to drive it deep into the outfield. And I worked the count in my favor and got a fastball. Even though it was kind of down, I got the barrel on it, and it finally went the other way and shot it into the gap. And it fell for me. And it was a great feeling.

Ray Tanner discussed his strategy in the ninth by saying:

Even though Wingo’s batting percentage is not high he’s been a on base guy for entire career for us. I’ll confess he’ll probably tell on me anyway, but with this count 3 and 2, I gave him the push bunt base hit to third base. Never have done that my entire career.

I just felt they had moved back to third. In that situation with Klein out there pitching as well as he was, I kept thinking it might be easier to push the ball toward the third base than it would be to get a hit. Wingo gave me a double take, a triple take, and he got a pitch low. He gets on.

He moves up with the past ball, bunts to third and Whit goes the other way. Just gotta find a way to win.

South Carolina coach Ray Tanner stated the following about his program’s first national championship after many close calls:

You start in February with 300 teams and you get a chance to go to post-season, and maybe to a Super Regional, and then you have things go right for you and you go to Omaha.

And you get to play in the national championship series. And you’re the last team standing.

Just a wonderful, wonderful time for our players and coaches. The University of South Carolina, our great fans, and a lot of them made the trek out here to Omaha, and looking forward to getting back to Columbia tomorrow and sharing this championship with our great university and the city of Columbia and our many, many wonderful fans.

Ray Tanner also discussed winning the last CWS title at Rosenblatt Stadium saying:

Without question, it’s very, very special. The history of the College World Series and Omaha and Rosenblatt, I was sitting out by the third baseline for opening ceremonies with the other teams thinking what a venue, what an atmosphere, what a history, to be able to come in the last year, to be part of the College World Series and the closing of Rosenblatt. And it dawned on me, it would be wonderful to go deep into this thing and be around at the end. And to be able to survive and win the last game is really incredible.

I know the new stadium will be very special and a great facility. But this is history. And we’ll be a part of the College World Series and Rosenblatt for a long, long time [it will be] . I can’t say enough about what Rosenblatt means and the city of Omaha. It’s got to be the most special post-season tournament in all of the NCAA championships. So it’s an incredible journey and incredible ending.

Ray Tanner compared this national championship squad to his strong squads in the early 2000’s saying:

The teams back in the early part of the decade, you know, we would try to hit a three-run homer, and anybody that thought about bunting would be penalized. So the game changed quite a bit. And this team has really been about pitching and defense. We hitted okay. We hit close to 100 home runs and around 300 as a team.

So I don’t want to act like we can’t hit at all.

But there were times when we had trouble scoring runs, but really there was never a time that we didn’t pitch and play defense throughout the entire season.

I went back and looked, one day it was incredible that, you know, we played 40 something games and we had a chance to win 39 of them because our pitching and defense put us in position.

It’s an entirely different team. And I’ve said this many times, I know that we’ve won some games and the players and coaches on the other side of the field were thinking they’re not that good.

But we were a good team. We probably, you know, even after tonight we’re not a great team but we’ve been a really, really special baseball team that approached it the right way and found a way to win and never gave in, never gave up. And it was real. It wasn’t just talk. And when we did have some adversity, they flushed it rather quickly and got back up.

You always hear if you’re going to play this game you better have a short memory. And these guys, they did that.

Coach Tanner discussed how special the story Bayler Teal was to the team this year:

You know, the fact that what we do in the athletic arena, you know, regardless of the sport. We battle. We compete. And a lot of times you put too much into it and we lose perspective.

And our players do a great job of reaching out to people in our community and volunteer work and hospital visits and Baylor — Baylor just came to us. We visited the hospital. Coach Holbrook had an experience in his family.

And it just — it was one of those situations that this felt right.

And he really became a part of our program. And he was always in our thoughts and prayers. We would get updates on how he was doing when we traveled. His dad would stay in constant contact with Coach Holbrook. So he really was a part of who we are, and we thought about him so many times.

And I gotta believe right now he’s probably smiling right now and a happy camper looking down upon us.

UCLA coach John Savage was proud of his program’s performance saying:

I’m so proud of our players and our program, the strides that we have made. It’s been a long journey. I’ve told the players that they have now reached the pinnacle in college baseball.

They’ve experienced the rigors of the Regionals and Super Regionals and the bracket of coming out and playing for a national championship. So now every player in that locker room knows what it feels like, what all the hard work and all the sacrifice to get to where they are. And we can sit there and be very proud of our entire program. And now the bar’s been raised, and we look to be back as soon as possible.

This team can say that they have been the best team in UCLA history, which is a long and rich tradition. And I just can’t say how proud I am about every single person that’s been part of our program.

UCLA lefthanded pitcher Rob Rasmussen talked about how special this season was and the drain from such a long year stating:

Looking back on the season, like I said, it was a special one. And right now I mean I can tell you that it doesn’t take a lot out of you physically, mentally when you’re here because this is what you’re playing for.

But you know, you hit towards the end of the year, the middle and the end of the year. We have guys banged up and really no one is 100 percent at that point in time because you’re playing so many games.

And I think it’s a testament really to any team who can get to Omaha, just because they’re so mentally tough and able to get through injuries and if you’re still playing you still have nagging injuries and whatnot. It’s a testament to any team who can get here, especially South Carolina and us, to make it all the way here.

And I mean that’s all you can really say is both teams were just mentally tough and hats off to them.