The reign of South Carolina’s college baseball dynasty will last at least a few more days, extended once again by a familiar formula.
The Gamecocks weren’t flashy offensively against Arkansas Friday night, but they managed to manufacture just enough runs to capitalize on remarkable efforts by their gritty pitching. They battled back from an early deficit and closed the door late, advancing with a 3-2 win over the Razorbacks.
Doing just enough to win. Again and again. That’s the SC way.
Coach Ray Tanner isn’t quite sure how to explain it. He’s had plenty of talent on his championship teams, yes. A little luck, too. But mostly, his players simply know how to battle, maintaining a sense of resiliency throughout.
Said Tanner: “You try not to let the game get the best of you, because it does. Baseball’s a game that’ll set you back. It’ll humble you. It’ll devastate you. It’ll crush you — if you allow it to. … You just have to let those things go and try to stay in the moment.”
And that’s what happened Friday. After trailing 2-0, South Carolina tied it with two runs in the fifth, then took the lead in the seventh. Closer Matt Price finished Arkansas off from there.
“These guys keep grinding,” Tanner said.
Friday’s win wasn’t without controversy, though.
Home plate umpire Perry Costello’s strike zone fluctuated all night long, so much so that no one seemed to have it figured out by game’s end. ESPN’s K-Zone did him no favors, either. Eight total players struck out looking. Arkansas tied a season-high with nine walks — SC’s game-tying run and go-ahead run were both walked in with the bases loaded.
And since South Carolina seemed to benefit from the border-line calls late, the first question that Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn fielded in the post-game press conference was about the umpiring crew. He wouldn’t comment.
“I would love to, but I can’t. I’m sorry,” Van Horn said.
The Gamecocks, the back-to-back national champions, will get a chance at a three-peat beginning Sunday, when they face Arizona in a best-of-three-series. The Wildcats are hot — but South Carolina won two games Thursday and was victorious again Friday, claiming three victories in a 36-hour stretch. Should be a fun series.