The Daily Gamecock

10 years later: South Carolina baseball team won 2011 College World Series

<p>The 2011 baseball team dogpiling the field after winning the college World Series.</p>

The 2011 baseball team dogpiling the field after winning the college World Series.

This June will mark the 10-year anniversary of the 2011 South Carolina baseball team's NCAA Championship title.

Coming off a championship a year prior, expectations were high for the team. Up to that point, only five programs had won consecutive championships. While winning the first time was great, the question became: could they do it again? 

Led by head coach Ray Tanner for 15 years, there were little signs of regression as the team finished the regular season with a 44-12 (22-8 SEC) record. Despite coming into the SEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed, the Gamecocks struggled, finishing 1-2 in Hoover, Alabama. 

"I think that you can overcome a lot of deficiencies if you've got a strong culture. And I think we had that," former pitcher Michael Roth said. "I think we had a lot of guys that were pulling in the right direction."

With home-field advantage in the regional and super regional rounds, the Gamecocks cruised without a loss to advance to the College World Series for the 10th time in program history.

"Playing at [Carolina Stadium], especially you know — we were spoiled with how many fans we had," former centerfielder Evan Marzilli said. "Talking to guys that I've played against that came to South Carolina, they always talked about it as being like one of the funnest places they ever played at."

South Carolina's hot streak continued into Omaha, Nebraska, defeating Texas A&M in the opening round, thanks to a walk-off single from then second baseman Scott Wingo.

After taking care of business in the second round against top-ranked Virginia, the Gamecocks had a chance to reach the championship round with a victory. In an all-time classic, they defeated the Cavaliers in 13 innings on a walk-off fielder's choice. Normally in the closer role, Matt Price gave the team a chance to win as he threw 5.2 shutout innings. 

"You're ... at the point in the season that you want your best guys in the most difficult circumstances that you have," Tanner said. "[Price] was that guy. And he was clutch. I mean, he came through in some tough situations and we were able to survive because of what he was able to do for us on the mound."

Against Florida, the Gamecocks won via walk-off for the third time as first baseman Christian Walker scored on an errant throw, securing a 2-1 victory in 11 innings. 

In the game the next day, the offense scored three runs in the third inning, giving Roth enough of a cushion to do his job. In 7.2 innings, he allowed two runs on five hits while striking out six. South Carolina went on to defeat the Gators 5-2, giving the program its second consecutive national championship. 

"I remember Jackie [Bradley Jr.] throwing the [final out] ball into the stands and us all being like, 'Why the hell did he just do that?'" Roth said about his memories from the aftermath of the game. "I think we were just all thrilled. We were elated."

After winning it all in the final year of Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, the Gamecocks became the first team to win the College World Series in the newly built TD Ameritrade Park. 

Posting a 0.338 batting average and driving in four runs throughout the series, Wingo was named the series' Most Outstanding Player. 

When the team returned home, the response from the fan base was immense. 

"I'll never forget was, coming back and seeing everybody lining the streets from the airport to [Colonial Life Arena]," Marzilli said. "To see like, these people appreciate it and like, all of our fans support us that much, it was just one of those things where, I mean, how could you ever forget something like that?"

Even 10 years later, the team still remains close. 

"It's fun, you know. It's like family," Tanner said. "They started as youngsters, you know, 18 to 21 years old here. And now they're older, many are married with children, and they're still living the dream playing the sport that they grew up with."