OMAHA—A few lingering images from the final College World Series game at Rosenblatt Stadium:
• During the postgame handshakes, South Carolina catcher Kyle Enders was carrying the national championship trophy. He got to UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer, and Bauer asked him if he could touch the trophy, then leaned over and gave it a wistful pat.
• As the members of the all-tournament team were announced over the PA system, South Carolina pitching coach Mark Calvi shook his head in disbelief and disappointment that none of his pitchers—not Blake Cooper, not Michael Roth, not Matt Price, not Sam Dyson—earned one of the two slots for pitchers. Certainly Trevor Bauer and Matt Purke were deserving of the two spots they received, but for the record, I voted for Cooper as Most Outstanding Player.
• A moment later, a giddy Chad Holbrook gave Calvi a huge hug and lifted him up, as Calvi said, "National champions! Do you believe it?" I was particularly happy for Holbrook, who watched title celebrations from the losing dugout in 2006 and '07 when he was an assistant at North Carolina. [...] Continue Reading »
Whit Merrifield and South Carolina sent Rosenblatt Stadium out in style, winning the first national championship for the Gamecocks with a 2-1 victory against UCLA in an 11-inning classic.
The Gamecocks trailed 1-0 until tying the game in the eighth inning, aided by a Bruins error. Redshirt freshman reliever Matt Price kept the game tied at 1-1 dueling with UCLA closer Dan Klein before the 11th.
Klein, clearly tiring, walked the leadoff batter, nine-hole hitter Scott Wingo. A passed ball moved Wingo to second and Evan Marzilli's sacrifice bunt pushed Wingo to third. Merrifield then lashed a 2-0 pitch to right field for the easy walk-off single.
It's the eighth national championship for a Southeastern Conference school and the second straight title for the SEC after Louisiana State won its sixth championship last year.
Aaron Fitt will have much more after the postgame.
OMAHA—South Carolina and UCLA are giving Rosenblatt Stadium a little drama in its final days.
UCLA carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth, when South Carolina tied the score on a tough error by first baseman Dean Espy—who moved across the diamond from third base today.
It's 1-1 heading into the ninth, with a championship on the line.
For more, see my Twitter feed—you can read my thoughts even if you don't have a Twitter account.
OMAHA—For the first time in 60 years, Rosenblatt Stadium itself is facing an elimination game at the College World Series.
If South Carolina wins tonight, the venerable ballpark will never host another CWS game. If UCLA wins, Rosenblatt's fate will be postponed for one more day.
I'm expecting a huge crowd for the potential send-off tonight, and I'm prepared to savor every moment this evening in case this my last time setting foot in Rosenblatt. But who knows if it will be? I certainly don't.
On that note, let's get to Tuesday's picks: [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Starting on three days' rest for the second straight Omaha outing, Blake Cooper was simply sensational. South Carolina's senior righthander carried a one-hit shutout into the ninth inning and finished with 10 strikeouts in a dominating 7-1 win against favored UCLA.
The Gamecocks took a 5-0 lead against UCLA flame-thrower Gerrit Cole through three innings, and Cooper never let the shell-shocked Bruins back into the game. Just two UCLA baserunners reached scoring position through the first eight innings. South Carolina out-hit the Bruins 14-3 and dominated the game in every facet.
Cooper left with the bases loaded and no outs, and one inherited runner scored. His final line: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.
His final pitch of the night was his 136th of the game, and his 300th pitch of the College World Series. He has three starts in nine days.
South Carolina is now just one win from its first national championship.
Plenty more to come on Cooper and the Gamecocks' huge victory after postgame.
OMAHA—As South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said yesterday, 300 or so teams started this journey in February and now it's down to two—East vs. West, South Carolina vs. UCLA for the national championship. I broke down the matchup in detail yesterday; now it's time to get to the picks:
John: "It's telling that I was dejected about being just 6-6 in the picks, and yet it is I who enters the CWS Finals with the picks lead at 8-6 to Aaron's 7-7. I'm very glad that I didn't jump off UCLA's bandwagon after Tyler Rahmatulla's injury in the Super Regional dogpile. Otherwise, I might have gone with the Horned Frogs. UCLA has provided nearly half of my victories in these picks blogs, kind of like the Drover provides about half of my meals each year in Omaha. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Right before the players took the dais for Sunday's pre-College World Series Finals press conference, UCLA shortstop Niko Gallego bumped into South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
"I told Jackie over there in the corner he's my favorite player to watch," Gallego said.
That's become a pretty popular sentiment here in Omaha. I developed a similar opinion the first time I ever saw Bradley play, during a South Carolina-Louisiana State series in Columbia in 2009.
The "fun to watch" discussion reminded me of something Georgia coach David Perno said about Gordon Beckham in 2008, when we named the Bulldogs' shorstop our Midseason Player of the Year.
"He wants to be fun to watch play," Perno said of Beckham then. "There were too many times last year where he would bring it back onto the field or take his defense with him to the plate. I told him, 'Hey, just be fun to watch.' " [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—UCLA baseball coach John Savage considers himself extremely fortunate to have met two of the most legendary coaches in all of sports—former Southern California baseball coach Rod Dedeaux and former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden—and both men have been on Savage's mind at the College World Series.
Dedeaux guided USC to 11 of its national championships. Savage was introduced to him in the 1990s, shortly after being hired as an assistant coach for the Trojans.
"He made me feel a part of things right away," Savage said. "Legend of all legends. All the national championships. All the relationships he had at USC with all the Trojans. His relationship overseas with the different countries. This guy was a worldwide legend. Very memorable." [...] Continue Reading »
"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." — Yogi Berra
OMAHA—The College World Series is accustomed to sold-out crowds and annual attendance records, so seeing so many empty seats at Rosenblatt Stadium on Saturday was something of a shock.
Attendance for the UCLA-TCU game was 10,907, the smallest crowd here since 1991. It wasn't much better for the Clemson-South Carolina game, which drew 12,593.
The small crowds puzzled NCAA officials.
Was it the heat, which hit the high 90s and indexed at 108? Did fans have other plans, since this was the first time a doubleheader was played at this juncture since 1988? Did they want a rest after a long week? Did several thousand stay home to watch the U.S. soccer team playing in the World Cup? It's difficult to say. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—South Carolina beat arch-rival Clemson, 4-3, on Saturday night and will play UCLA in the CWS Finals starting Monday.
The Gamecocks broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the seventh on back-to-back RBI singles by Christian Walker and Adrian Morales. Clemson answered with a run in the eighth but could get no closer against South Carolina flame-throwing closer Matt Price, who earned the win with 2 1/3 innings of relief.
Sam Dyson was terrific on three days' rest for South Carolina, allowing two runs over 6 2/3 innings.
The Gamecocks completed their run through the losers' bracket with back-to-back wins against Clemson, just as they did in 2002.
More to come after postgame.
OMAHA—Schools making their first appearance in the College World Series rarely stick around much past pregame introductions at Rosenblatt Stadium. Wide-eyed wonder leads to lots of called third strikes. And butterflies in the stomach tend to throw off your pitching mechanics.
Before this year, eight schools had made their first appearance in the CWS since the new 64-team format was established in 1999. Five of them went home winless. Louisiana-Lafeyette (2-2) was the only one to win more than one game.
TCU, the only newcomer in this year's eight-team field, proved to be an exception. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Behind a 13-strikeout gem from Trevor Bauer, UCLA dominated Texas Christian, 10-3, to reach the College World Series Finals for the first time. Bauer allowed just four hits—his fewest since his season opener against Bethune-Cookman, when he also struck out 13. With temperatures in the mid-90s and a heat index in triple digits, Bauer threw 135 pitches over eight innings.
The Bruins scored five runs in the first, highlighted by Blair Dunlaps three-run homer, and they never looked back. TCU's outstanding season comes to an end one win shy of the Finals.
More to come after postgame.
OMAHA—It's amazing that coming into the season, Texas Christian's coaching staff listed the team's infield defense as its biggest question mark.
On Friday, as Matt Purke induced 13 groundball outs, it was clear the Horned Frogs are extremely confident in their defense now. A big reason for that is the emergence of shortstop Taylor Featherston as a sophomore.
"We knew going into the season that losing three-fourths of our infield, only returning Taylor, that that was going to be a telltale sign of what kind of club we were going to have—if we played good defense," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said Friday.
Featherston committed 27 errors as a freshman, and his struggles in the first half forced TCU to swap him and second baseman Ben Carruthers halfway through the season. But after Carruthers suffered a season-ending injury, Featherston had to move back to short, and he started showing signs of maturation. He worked hard to improve his defense in the offseason, and the fruits of his labor have been evident in Omaha. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Class is sometimes checked at the door when it comes to the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry.
Tigers players had to run a bit of a gauntlet as they emerged from a tunnel connected to their Rosenblatt Stadium dugout, walked through a crowded corridor and into the media room following Friday night's 5-1 loss to the Gamecocks.
"We own you," shouted one Gamecocks fan, his voice rising above several other taunts and jabs. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—South Carolina lefthander Michael Roth, making his first start since April 14, 2009, threw a complete-game, three-hit masterpiece, leading the Gamecocks to a 5-1 win against Clemson. The South Carolina victory forces a decisive rematch between the two rivals on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the CWS Finals.
Before Friday, the longest outing of Roth's career came in that aforementioned start against College of Charleston, when he lasted 4 1/3 innings. On Friday, he carved up Clemson's lefthanded-leaning lineup, inducing 16 groundball outs and striking out four while walking just one.
South Carolina, meanwhile, scored single runs in each of the first four innings to take control of the game.
More to come after postgame.
OMAHA—Behind another standout performance from freshman sensation Matt Purke, Texas Christian beat UCLA 6-2 on Friday afternoon, forcing a Saturday rematch to determine the bracket champion.
Purke (16-0) retired the first 10 batters of the game and held UCLA scoreless into the fifth. He allowed just two runs on three hits over 6 1/3 innings before handing off to Tyler Lockwood, who worked 2 2/3 shutout innings to nail down the victory.
The Horned Frogs made UCLA starter Rob Rasmussen work hard over the first two innings, though they wound up with just two runs to show for it. But shortstop Taylor Featherston broke open a 3-2 game with a two-run homer to left in the seventh, and UCLA did not threaten again.
We'll have more on this game after the postgame press conferences. Clemson-South Carolina starts in less than an hour.
OMAHA—Kirk Kenney and I had lunch today at Lo Sole Mio, where we met Jim Callis and his entire family—wife Ann and four kids. The Callis clan made the drive from Chicago to Omaha yesterday and headed right for the Drover, where an anonymous do-gooder picked up their entire tab. He told the waitress that he had kids and understood how hard it is to get out with the family, and he made sure the waitress did not tell the Callises until he had left. How's that for Midwestern hospitality?
We've got a sterling slate of games on tap today; let's get to the picks:
John: The last two nights have provided the two best games of the Series; I'm not sure if it's really close. This Series is building momentum, and today has a chance to be a special day. We've got the Palmetto State rivals on one side facing each other in Clemson and South Carolina, and TCU and UCLA, already rivals from their thrilling game Monday that capped that day's historic tripleheader, in the other. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—If you know a rested pitcher South Carolina can start in Friday night's game against Clemson, please text coach Ray Tanner. He's awake. Probably pacing, his mind racing.
"You play this long, you can be tired in two weeks," said Tanner, whose team was one strike away from elimination from the College World Series on Thursday night before it rallied for a 3-2, 12-inning victory over Oklahoma. "You don't want the season to end. When you're like that, you're not tired."
This is the stage of the CWS where pitching staffs get taxed coming through the losers' bracket, while the winners' bracket teams—in this case Clemson and UCLA—have been on R&R for three or four days. But sometimes teams get a rush of adrenaline, ignore exhaustion and live to pitch another day. In fact, the Gamecocks did it in 2002 when they lost their opening game and still made it all the way to the championship game—after beating Clemson twice in a row in the bracket championship. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—South Carolina was down to its final strike in the 12th inning, when Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to right field on a 3-and-2 pitch, driving in Robert Beary to tie the game. Two batters later, Bradley scored the winning run on Brady Thomas' RBI single up the middle, giving South Carolina a thrilling 3-2 win against Oklahoma.
The Sooners, who got 11 sparkling innings from starter Zach Neal and reliever Jeremy Erben, are eliminated from the College World Series, while the Gamecocks survive to face arch-rival Clemson on Friday.
Plenty more to come on the second straight heart-stopping game at this CWS.
OMAHA—John and I are still below .500 in our picks, but TCU's comeback victory salvaged a 2-0 Wednesday for me and helped John and I both climb closer to .500. Kirk Kenney and I had a chance to save a little more face for Baseball America at Shoreline golf course today, where we took on Doug Kroll and Kevin Scheitrum of NCAA.com in a team match. After a rough start, Kirk and I stormed back to win the front nine by four strokes thanks to Kirk's wizardry around the green and my four straight pars to close the front. Doug and Kevin surged back into the lead on the back, but Team BA answered the bell again, and the match was all square heading into the 18th hole. The four of us matched each other chip-for-chip and putt-for-putt on the 18th, and the match ended in a hard-fought draw. And I finished with the day's low round—91.
Now it's time to carry that momentum over to the picks: [...] Continue Reading »
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