OMAHA, NE (WIS) - The Gamecocks have won the College World Series, beating UCLA 2-1 in extra innings Tuesday night in the second game of the College World Series. Whit Merrifield's RBI single with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning gave South Carolina its first baseball national championship in school history.
"It's like a fairy tale ending for me," pitcher Blake Cooper said after the game. The Gamecocks (54-16) won six straight games after losing their CWS opener against Oklahoma. They also won the last championship played at Rosenblatt Stadium, the CWS' home since 1950.
Scott Wingo drew a leadoff walk and took second when catcher Steve Rodriguez, perhaps distracted when Evan Marzilli squared to bunt, let an inside 1-0 pitch get past him. Wingo moved to third when Marzilli got a bunt down, and scored when Merrifield drilled a 2-0 pitch by Dan Klein (6-1) past pulled-in outfield of the Bruins (51-17).
"The first thing they did when they got the trophy is Coach Tanner mentioned Bayler and they brought the trophy over to my family," said Bayler Teal's father Rob, fighting back tears. "It just tells you all you need to know about that team."
The team rallied around the Teal family after young Bayler lost his battle to cancer last week, inviting them out to Omaha to watch the game. The family brought a "Go Gamecocks" sign Bayler made last year that had been autographed by Whit Merrifield, who ended up hitting the championship-winning RBI.
South Carolina fans barely waited for Merrifield's game-winning single to hit the ground before celebrating. The crowd at Jillian's bar burst into cries of "Gamecocks," and fans filled area bars and restaurants in Five Points and the Vista.
"To compete at this level, and the way our team competed, it exemplifies what college athletics are supposed to be," said USC Athletics Director Eric Hyman.
The Gamecocks struggled to drive in runs Tuesday night, a change from the previous night's 7-1 rout. In the second inning the bases were loaded for Evan Marzilli, but he hit a fly out to end the inning.
Michael Roth got his second Omaha start and had another nice outing in five innings, striking out three and giving up only one run.
The Bruins put up the game's first run in the fifth, when Niko Gallego singled to left center. Trevor Brown went home to make it 1-0 for UCLA. Later in the fifth, with two on for Adrian Morales, he went down swinging and the Gamecocks remain scoreless.
In the sixth inning with two on for Marzilli, he got caught looking and struck out. In the seventh inning with one on for Morales, the swing and miss left another of several Gamecock runners stranded on base Tuesday night.
Bobby Haney found a way to get someone home in the eighth inning, hitting one to first baseman Dean Espy. Robert Beary scored, tying it at one.
UCLA loaded the bases at the top of the ninth, but Matt Price continued his stellar pitching in Omaha, getting the strikeout to put out the fire.
The game went to extra innings and was scoreless until the bottom of the 11th inning, until Merrifield's single sent Wingo home and the Gamecocks into history.
The USC Athletics Department announced late Tuesday night that there will be a celebration on Wednesday at the Colonial Life Arena. The event will begin between 4:30 p.m., and will include an autograph session with the team.