June 27, 2011

Walker answers the bell for USC

CWS Results


Walker scores game-winner in 11th for USC vs. Florida

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


(photos by Jimmy Jones)


OMAHA, Neb. – Sophomore first baseman Christian Walker (right) singled and scored on an error in the top of the 11th as fourth-seeded South Carolina edged second-seeded Florida 2-1 Monday in the opening game of the best-of-three championship series of the 2011 College World Series in front of a sellout crowd of 25,581 at TD Ameritrade Park.


The teams will meet for the second game of the series on Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT.


Walker had a one-out single up the middle in the 11th for the Gamecocks (54-14). After Greg Larson came in to pitch for the Gators (53-18), Adam Matthews swung and missed on a hit-and-run attempt on his first offering. The throw to second went into center, allowing Walker to go to third. The throw to third from center was high and went out of play, letting Walker score the go-ahead run.


It was the third win for the Gamecocks in their final at-bat in four CWS games in 2011.


“It’s remarkable how we always manage to stay loose and stay calm in the dugout,” Walker said. “Even going into the 10th, 11th inning against a team like Florida, we’ve done it all year, and hopefully we continue to do so.”


Walker was not in the original starting lineup for South Carolina due to a broken hamate bone in his hand. After batting practice, he was put into the third spot in the lineup.


Florida tried to rally in the bottom of the 11th against USC closer Matt Price. Brian Johnson had a leadoff single and pinch-runner Paul Wilson was sacrificed to second. Price struck out Tyler Thompson in a high fastball and got Daniel Pigott to ground out to short to end the contest.


“We were very fortunate to be able to win tonight,” USC head coach Ray Tanner said.


John Taylor (8-1) picked up the victory, allowing three hits and three walks in two scoreless innings. Price picked up his 19th save.


Freshman right-hander Forrest Koumas gave the Gamecocks a great start, going 5.2 innings with three hits, one run, one walk and four strikeouts. Tyler Webb gave up one hit and two walks in 2.1 innings of relief.


Sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (left) was masterful in his start for the Gators, allowing three hits and one run in 7.2 innings with one walk and six strikeouts. Randall also had a putout and five assists.


Florida got on the board in the bottom of the third. Thompson drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a groundout, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cody Dent as the Gators took a 1-0 lead.


USC tied it in the top of the eighth. Peter Mooney received a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second. He went to third when Evan Marzilli flew out to right center. Scott Wingo singled up the middle, under the glove of Randall and into center, as Mooney scored to make it 1-1.


The Gators missed a great opportunity in the bottom of the ninth. Mike Zunino had a nine-pitch at-bat and coaxed a leadoff walk. Brian Johnson failed to get a bunt down, but singled to right to move Zunino to third. Josh Adams was intentionally walked to load the bases. With the infield in, Wingo made a diving stop of a hard grounder at second by Thompson. He got up and threw home to force Zunino for the first out as catcher Robert Beary made a nice pick on the throw. Pigott also grounded to second, as Wingo started a 4-2-3 double play to send the game to extra innings.


Florida had another chance to score in the 10th. Dent singled and was sacrificed to second. With two away, Preston Tucker was intentionally walked. Zunino had a base hit to left and Dent attempted to score. The throw from Jake Williams was up the line, but Beary was able to make the catch and tag on Dent to force another frame.


“I had one of those weird intuitions that the ball was going to get hit to me,” Williams said, “and I was ready to make an accurate throw and try to get it in the air and make it have a close chance for a play. And the ball, sure enough, was hit to me and I got a good throw on it.”


The Gators stranded 10, including five over the last three innings.


“South Carolina is the champs for a reason.” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “They made plays when they needed to. This thing is long way from over. This is a series. We're disappointed tonight, but when we come out tomorrow night we'll be ready to go.”


Walker went 2 for 5 with a run for the Gamecocks.


Johnson finished with three hits, while Bryson Smith added two hits for the Gators.


South Carolina tied a pair of NCAA records, with its 10th straight College World Series victory and its 15th consecutive NCAA tournament win.