OMAHA, Neb. - For the second straight season, the Gamecocks got out of the gates strong winning the first game of the College World Series. While it doesn’t seem like much, that’s a feat under head coach Ray Tanner, who was 0-4 in his first four trips with South Carolina in the opener in Omaha.
Freshman Joey Pankake was 1-for-6 against the Gators but made his plays defensively
The Gamecocks defeated No. 1 national seed Florida and have to be feeling pretty good about its position at the moment.
The game finished just after 11:30 p.m. local time and right around the time credits of the Jay Leno show were scrolling back on the East coast. While it was a late night, it won’t be an early morning for the SEC East champions with goals of a bigger ring for their finger to cap the 2012 season.
The team will practice at 2:30 p.m. EDT at Creighton University. Practices are open to the public and typically last about 90 minutes.
Following practice, the team will be released to enjoy the evening either at the ballpark watching the other side of the bracket or just time to relax with their family, friends, or teammates.
The tournament’s first team will be sent home this afternoon as Stony Brook and Florida State do battle at 5 p.m. EDT. The winners bracket will feature an all-Pac 12 affair with Arizona and UCLA squaring off at 9 p.m. EDT. Both games are being broadcast on ESPN2.
South Carolina, in all honesty, couldn’t have played a much better game than it did in its 7-3 victory over Florida on Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The Gamecocks (46-17) performed better at the plate, on the mound, and in the field against a team that beat them three of four times in the regular season.
“I thought we played really well through the first four innings,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I thought South Carolina beat us in every phase of the game today. They outpitched us. The obviously out hit us and they played better defense. It was just a really well-played game by South Carolina.”
Sophomore Erik Payne was 1-for-4 in South Caroilna's 7-3 victory with a walk and three RBIs
In addition to the score, the Gamecocks out-hit the Gators (47-19) 12-to-9. South Carolina didn’t make an error while Florida made three that led to only one unearned run, but certainly impacted the game.
Five different players had multi-hit days for the Gamecocks but the big blow came from sophomore Erik Payne, who had just one hit, but drove in three runs.
“Every player wants to be up there with the bases loaded,” Payne said. “You’ve got to try to stay calm and focused on what you want to do.”
Payne’s three-RBI triple to the gap in right center opened the floodgates for the Gamecocks, which scored seven runs for the second time this postseason.
With the win, South Carolina advances in the winners bracket and will face Arkansas, which knocked off Kent State 8-1 in Saturday’s opener behind 6.1 innings of strong work on the mound from DJ Baxendale.
Behind enemy lines
South Carolina will face another familiar foe on Monday night at 9 p.m. going up against Arkansas. The Razorbacks (45-20) dropped the series to the Gamecocks at home this season and will look to exact some revenge on college baseball’s biggest stage.
Arkansas will throw ace Ryne Stanek, a power right-hander selected to play for Team USA this summer, along with South Carolina catcher Grayson Greiner.
“Facing Stanek,” Tanner said, “he’s dynamite. Big arm, big guy, power pitcher, goo stuff. We were able to scrap against him in Fayetteville but that’s the first thing you have to do is figure out how to score runs. He’s pitching really well.”
Stanek wasn’t at the top of his game during his last start in the Super Regional against Baylor giving up two runs in four innings. He pitched one of his best games of the season, however, in the Regional round against Rice. The sophomore has a 2.91 ERA on the season to go with 80 strikeouts against 33 walks.
“Whoever we face in our next game and possibly later in the tournament, we know it’s going to be a tough game,” Arkansas pitcher DJ Baxendale said. “We’re just going to attack it like we normally do.
Things to do
Rosenblatt Stadium is mere days from being nothing but a memory. The iconic college baseball stadium will be torn down beginning next week but there are two more chances for you to visit the park. On Sunday and Monday, the stadium will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for guests to take a tour of the old park. Admission is free but be forewarned, it’s just a shell of its former self.
The Gamecocks are playing late and who doesn’t need a midnight snack? Check out Night Flight Pizza, which stays open until 3:30 a.m. and delivers some incredible pizza at a decent price. Located at 48th and Dodge St, they have any kind of pizza one could want on the menu, plus a variety of appetizers, including ravioli, salad, wings, and cinnamon sticks. Give them a call at 402-342-4500.
***All times listed are Eastern***
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