Price closes door in 11th inning on 2-1 classic over FloridaNow it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again. – Red Smith, The New York Herald Tribune, October 4, 1951
South Carolina won the last College World Series held at Rosenblatt Stadium. It will now have two cracks at winning the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
And it will have those two chances at glory because of two errant Florida throws – both within a matter of heartbeats – that produced, at the same time, one of the most improbable moments in collegiate baseball history and one of the most fitting ways for this Gamecock team to snatch yet another victory from the jaws of defeat.
It was another game USC had no business winning, but still did anyway. This 2-1 triumph over the Gators in Game 1 of the national championship series could have gone the other way. In fact, it probably should've gone the other way.
But it didn't. And for that, USC is 27 outs from another national title and Florida's back is squarely against the wall.
There were seven and a half innings played prior, but the story must start in the bottom of the eighth inning. Florida starter Hudson Randall had been dominant, holding the Gamecocks without a base runner since the fourth inning. But Peter Mooney walked to open the frame. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Robert Beary, and to third on a sac fly by Evan Marzilli.
Enter Scott Wingo, master of the dramatic. Two flailing swings at breaking balls from Randall followed. But, again, it was Wingo up there. A chopper found a hole. Tie game.
From there came the bottom of the ninth, and the bases loaded with Florida Gators, nary an out to their name. USC drew its infield in, for a single run would end the game. It immediately reaped the benefits – a brilliant off-balance throw by Wingo (who else?) got the first out at home – before turning yet another crucial late double play, this one of the 4-2-3 variety, to end the threat.
Sounds wild? As Francis Albert Sinatra once sang, we'd only just begun. The top of the 11th was in another world.
With one out, Christian Walker – who wasn't even supposed to play after a hamate bone injury – singled. He then took off for second. The throw down sailed away and into center field. Walker stood up and took off for third. The throw from the outfield followed. It too was errant, landing in the stands.
Another base. Another run. Get Matt Price up for the bottom half. Watch Price end it. Move on, again. Line up to win the national title, again.
Two passes at it starting Tuesday.