(NOTE: Here is a South Carolina baseball story from Sunday night from our Gannett partner, the Greenville News. Find more College World Series stories here at GreenvilleOnline.com.)
By Willie T. Smith III
OMAHA, NEB. — For the second time in the 2012 College World Series, the University of South Carolina baseball team has its back to the wall.
The University of Arizona behind solid hitting and an outstanding pitching performance by starter Konner Wade, led from beginning to end in earning a 5-1 victory over the Gamecocks in front of a TD Ameritrade Park crowd of 24,748 in the first game of the best-of-three championship round.
The loss is the second for USC in Omaha this year as it had had to win three straight games in 33 hours to earn a trip to the CWS finals.
The Gamecocks got a quick pep talk from their leaders following the game.
“Our captains kind of gave us words of encouragement following the game,” said freshman catcher Grayson Greiner. “Michael Roth and Christian Walker let us know we have been in this position before and we will keep fighting.”
The Wildcats proved too much for the Gamecocks who sent sophomore Forrest Koumas to the mound in what was his first start since facing LSU in Carolina Stadium on May 18.
The proved to be a tall task as Arizona entered the game hitting better than .300 as a team. It has now won 11 straight games during this postseason. The Gamecocks had a record 22-game NCAA postseason winning streak and a 12-game CWS victory string broken earlier last week.
The Wildcats wasted little time putting pressure on Carolina as it scored two first-inning runs when Johnny Field singled to left with one out and later scored on a Robert Refsnyder homer over the right-field wall.
Koumas (2-3) lasted only 21/3 innings in the contest, allowing three runs – two earned – on four hits and a walk. He struck out three.
He was followed by freshman right-hander Evan Beal who had a solid outing, but finally faltered against Arizona’s offensive juggernaut. He still managed to pitch five innings, allowing two runs – one earned.
Arizona starter Konner Wade (11-3) went the distance, allowing only six hits. He is the first pitcher to pitch two complete games in one College World Series since 2004.
“I thought the key to this game for them was Konner Wade,” said USC coach Ray Tanner. “He was outstanding.”
The Gamecocks had few scoring opportunities with what could have become the best derailed by an unfortunate base running decision in the seventh.
Adam Matthews led off with single to left. That was followed by a single to right by former Wade Hampton standout Kyle Martin.
Matthews attempted to advance to third on the play, but was thrown out by Refsnyder.
“That was a big play, no doubt,” said Tanner. “Adam gets a base hit and then Tanner hits one through the hole. (Arizona’s right fielder) Refsnyder had to make a perfect throw and he did.”
The teams return to action tonight when the Gamecocks will likely send senior ace Michael Roth (9-1) to the mound on three days’ rest.
“Roth told me he was surprising close to being ready (Sunday),” said Tanner. “He should be ready to go.”