OMAHA, Neb. — The South Carolina Gamecocks are getting a reputation for being drama kings.
Adam Matthews scored in the bottom of the 13th inning Friday night after Virginia reliever Cody Winiarski botched two throws while fielding bunts, sending the defending national champions back to the College World Series finals with a 3-2 victory.
The wild finish came after South Carolina closer Matt Price worked out of bases-loaded situations in the 10th, 12th and 13th innings.
“I don’t know where to begin,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. “That game had so much involved in it. This game certainly could have gone either way, and we just kept hanging in there and we were fortunate to get a couple of breaks at the end.”
The Gamecocks (53-14) will play Florida (53-17) in an all-Southeastern Conference best-of-three final beginning Monday. Virginia (56-12) was the No. 1 national seed.
South Carolina, which has won a record 14 straight NCAA tournament games, recorded its sixth walkoff victory of the season and second of this year’s College World Series. The Gamecocks won last year’s championship game against UCLA in walkoff fashion.
“It really has been amazing,” Tanner said. “I admire these guys and the players we’ve had the last couple of years. And their work ethic, their desire to play, to win. They show up and go every day and we’ve been very fortunate.”
Brady Thomas singled leading off the 13th against Winiarski. Matthews came in to run and advanced when Winiarski pivoted and threw wildly trying to get him at second on Peter Mooney’s bunt. Robert Beary followed with another bunt. Winiarski tried to get Matthews at third, but the low throw got away from the third baseman, allowing the winning run to score.
“Beary had a great bunt in there and I slid in headfirst to third and the umpire motioned I was safe,” Matthews said. “I got up. I didn’t know where the ball was. Coach over there was telling me to go, go, go, so it worked out good.”
Said Winiarski: “It’s simple. They wanted to get an out (on sacrifices), and we weren’t able to capitalize on that and just take what they were giving to us. Those are plays we practice every day in practice and just didn’t execute.”
Winiarski (6-4) relieved Virginia closer Branden Kline starting the bottom of the 13th. Kline threw 107 pitches in five innings of three-hit relief.
“That was a baseball game of just a lot of emotions, a lot of gut decisions, both teams taking chances at times,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “It’s unfortunate that we had to come out on the wrong end of it.”
Sherman: Duel of Ace Closers
Friday’s 4½-hour classic between South Carolina and Virginia featured a duel of relief aces, writes Mitch Sherman. Notebook Kline and Price engaged in a long battle of closers. Price (