As pro-college baseball as we are, it is only appropriate from our way of thinking that the University of South Carolina won its first ever National Championship in any sport yesterday...and it was baseball that put South Carolina in the company of Champions.
Lou Holtz tried, Steve Spurrier couldn't do it and basketball has never even come close... but Ray Tanner did it and swept what most thought was an overwhelming favorite in UCLA. He had his team ready to play and boy, what a great final game it was.
Whit Merrifield singled home Scott Wingo in the bottom of the 11th inning, lifting South Carolina to a 2-1 win over UCLA, clinching the National Championship for the Gamecocks.
Wingo led off the final frame with a walk, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a bunt by Evan Marzilli and scored on Merrifield single to right.
The two starting pitchers, South Carolina's Michael Roth and UCLA's Rob Rasmussen locked up in a tight duel, but neither was around to figure in the decision. Roth allowed one run on six hits over 5.0 innings, while Rasmussen scattered six hits and four walks over 6.0 scoreless frames.
UCLA broke the scoreless tie with a run in the top of the fifth. Trevor Brown led off with an infield single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Niko Gallego's RBI single to left.
The Gamecocks finally tied the score in the bottom of eighth. Pinch-hitter Brady Thomas led off the frame with a solid single to center. Pinch-runner Robert Beary went to second on a ground out and scored when Bobby Haney's grounder ended up in right field after being misplayed by UCLA first baseman Dean Espy and eluding second baseman Cody Regis.
Matt Price (5-1) worked three scoreless innings of relief for the win.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by Christian Walker, Evan Marzilli and Brady Thomas.
The Gamecocks finish the season with a 54-16 record, while UCLA ends its campaign with a 51-17 mark.