South Carolina eliminates Arkansas from CWS
Posted: June 23, 2012 at 1:46 a.m.
OMAHA, Neb. The Arkansas bullpen's streak of scoreless innings ended at precisely the wrong time and cost the Razorbacks a spot in the College World Series finals.
Reliever Barrett Astin walked Adam Matthews with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, producing South Carolina's go-ahead run in a 3-2 victory Friday night and ended the streak at 26 innings.
The Gamecocks (49-18) will play Arizona in the best-of-three finals starting Sunday looking to win their third straight national championship.
Arkansas had won seven straight games decided by one run.
"South Carolina did a great job of manufacturing a run there late to win the game," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I just feel bad for our players. They fought hard."
Tyler Webb and Matt Price combined for seven innings of shutout relief for the Gamecocks, who are trying to become the first team to win three titles in a row since Southern California won five straight from 1970-74.
The Gamecocks beat Arkansas twice in three CWS meetings over five days after winning two of three against the Razorbacks during the Southeastern Conference regular season.
Arkansas had ended South Carolina's record 22-game win streak in the NCAA tournament with a 2-1 win on Monday. The Gamecocks forced a second bracket championship game with their 2-0 win on Thursday.
"I knew it was going to be tight and it didn't surprise me it ended up being a one-run game," Van Horn said. "Hats off to the pitchers, I thought they did a great job. I thought they filled up the zone all night long."
The Gamecocks erased a 2-0 deficit in the fifth, with Arkansas starter DJ Baxendale walking Christian Walker with the bases loaded to force in the tying run. Baxendale had a career-high five walks.
Matthews looked ready to swing on a 3-2 pitch from Astin in the seventh, but he held up as the slider dropped low and Joey Pankake trotted home for the go-ahead run.
It was the ninth walk issued by the Razorbacks.
Colby Suggs (7-1) took the loss for Arkansas (46-22).
Webb, who relieved Colby Holmes after the Hogs' first two batters reached in the third, allowed two hits in four innings.
Price (5-4), who gave up one hit and struck out five, pitched three innings to earn his record fifth career win in the CWS. Of his 48 pitches, 37 were strikes.
"Any time you get to the College World Series it helps your program," Van Horn said. "It's definitely going to help the confidence of the players in your program. Hopefully it helps build support among your fan base, and our fan base has been incredible."
Matt Reynolds drove in a run in the first inning to end a 0-for-15 slump. Reynolds had not had a hit since the fourth inning of the June 10 game against Baylor. It was the longest hitless drought of Reynolds' career. He drove in the Hogs' other run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning.
"Going to the College World Series has always been a dream of mine," Reynolds said. "We knew we had the team to do it this year. We went through a struggle midseason but we never gave up and we kept fighting, and I think we really jelled as a team early in the postseason. It's a bad feeling that it came to an end like this."