After a pair of throwing errors cost them the opening game of the 2011 College World Series Championship Series on Monday, No. 2 Florida Gators baseball hoped to reverse their fortunes on Tuesday with a second crack at the defending champion No. 2 South Carolina Gamecocks. Instead, an error in the third propelled a three-run inning and played a large part in South Carolina (55-14) defeating Florida (53-19) 5-2 to win their second-straight NCAA National Championship.
The Gamecocks captured the final national title played at Rosenblatt Stadium in 2010 and earned the first contested at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE as the Gators moved to 0-4 in the CWS Championship Series in school history (0-2 vs. Texas in 2005).
South Carolina also won their 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament game dating back to 2010 and improved to 4-1 against Florida in 2011.
Junior right-handed pitcher Michael Roth (14-3) earned the start for USC and was absolutely stellar in his outing, allowing only two earned runs in 7.2 innings while giving up five hits and two walks, hitting a pair of batters, and striking out six.
UF countered with freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (8-1), who hoped to match Roth pitch-for-pitch and succeeded through the first two innings before struggling mightily with his command in the third.
Whitson started the inning by giving up a stand-up double down the left field line to South Carolina shortstop Peter Mooney, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. He was then plated when second baseman Scott Wingo hit a sacrifice fly to right.
With two outs and runners on first and second, first baseman Christian Walker smacked a chopper to the left side that Florida sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana flubbed, scoring another for the Gamecocks. South Carolina added one more in the inning as an infield single by designated hitter Brady Thomas plated the second unearned run of the inning, putting the Gamecocks ahead 3-0.
Having retired eight-straight batters, Roth was tagged for a solo homer cranked to left by Gators sophomore catcher Mike Zunino in the fourth, reducing Florida’s deficit to 3-1.
UF looked to even things up in the fifth after getting runners on first and second with nobody out. Freshman third baseman Cody Dent was sent to bunt the runners over but fouled out into a strikeout on a 1-2 count; senior center fielder Bryson Smith followed by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning without the Gators plating a run.
USC hoped to increase their lead in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases after Whitson (4.2 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 4 K) allowed a pair of two-out singles and hit a batter. He was then pulled for junior RHP Tommy Toledo, who struck out the next batter to save the inning and leave the bases full.
Florida tried to get things going in the sixth, once again getting their first two batters on board. However, a strikeout and consecutive ground outs stranded the runners on second and third in scoring position to conclude the frame.
South Carolina added to their lead in the latter portion of the frame, as Mooney hit a solo homer off Toledo by sending a rocket to right.
The Gators had one more chance in the top of the eighth when Zunino hit a one-out double to right-center and advanced to third on a ground out. Senior second baseman Josh Adams singled to right to score Zunino and reduce the Gamecocks’ lead to 4-2. Unfortunately for UF, junior pinch hitter Tyler Thompson struck out looking to end the frame, stranding Adams on first.
USC tacked on one more run in their final frame, sending a lead-off single from first-to-third on an infield grounder and wild pitch before plating him with a single to right. Head coach Ray Tanner then brought on closer Matt Price, who earned his 20th save of the season and second in as many days.
Florida concluded the 2011 season with a school single-season record 53 wins while also reaching the CWS Championship Series for just the second time in school history. The Gators also won the Southeastern Conference regular season championship and tournament title while boasting the league’s Player of the Year in Zunino.
2011 CWS All-Tournament Team
Third baseman Cody Dent
Center fielder Bryson Smith