2010 SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASEBALL
South Carolina beat UCLA 2-1 in 11 innings last night to win the Gamecocks first ever NCAA Baseball Championship and actually South Carolina's first NCAA Division I Championship in any men's sport. So, a pretty big night for the USC of the East. Whit Merrifield got the RBI single with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning that gave South Carolina the win. Jackie Bradley was named the 2010 CWS MVP and this was the They also won the last college baseball championship that will ever be played at Rosenblatt Stadium, which has been home to the CWS since 1950.
The Gamecocks (54-16) turned out to be the toughest and grittiest team in college baseball this season. They just had amazing mental toughness that carried them through. The Gamecocks started their 2010 CWS run with a 4-3 LOSS to Oklahoma. So, at that point, they were in the "losers bracket" and only one loss away from being knocked out.
But, they went on to win 6 straight games, beating #1 ranked Arizona State (11-4); Oklahoma in a rematch (3-2 in 12 innings -- were one strike from losing that one before coming back to win); Clemson (5-1); Clemson (4-3); UCLA (7-1); and finally last night UCLA (2-1, 11 innings).
You can see that South Carolina was on the edge of being knocked out for 6 straight games. Two of them went into extra innings. Last night's final not only was won in the bottom of the 11th, but also, South Carolina trailed 1-0 in the 8th inning, before tying it up. So, pretty gutsy run by the Gamecocks. South Carolina baseball fans should proud.
Prior preview discussion of 2010 South Carolina Baseball: South Carolina comes off a season in which nearly everything that could go right went right. The team stayed relatively healthy over the course of the season. Players who were expected to perform at a high level indeed did so, and those who were not expected to contribute much exceeded expectations. And the schedule broke well in that the Gamecocks consistently seemed to catch opponents when they were just off their stride a bit. And South Carolina is good enough that they took advantage.
In total, the South Carolina Gamecocks managed a record of 40-23 for the 2009 season, and the team also performed well in the challenging Southeastern Conference, where the team went 17-13 in conference play. Based on their performance last year, and the players returning, these numbers may just be the starting point for 2010.
Key Departing Players:
South Carolina has a lot of talent returning to the bench in 2010, but there are going to be some initial growing pains as the team will have to adjust to the loss of some of its star players from last season. The biggest loss, and in turn arguably the most challenging to replace, will be that of catcher Justin Dalles. In addition to being a great signal caller, Dalles was an important cog in the Gamecocks offense in 2009, when he batted .324 behind 15 home runs and 47 runs knocked in. Also departing is talented outfielder DeAngelo Mack, a versatile offensive threat who hit .361 with 14 home runs and 60 runs batted in last season.
The pitching rotation returns this season relatively intact, however it will have to cope with the loss of a key arm in righthander Jay Brown. Brown was 3-0 last season with a solid 3.35 ERA in just over 48 innings pitched. Lefthander Alex Farotto, who had some good streaks last year (and some not so good en route to a 4.96 ERA overall) will also be a challenge to replace.
Key Returning Players:
The South Carolina Gamecocks are fortunate enough to have a number of talented players returning to the squad in 2010, and it is because of this that many are considering the team to be a team to watch this season. Much of the Gamecocks 2010 offense will start and end with two talented outfielders in the names of Jack Bradley and Whit Merrifield. Bradley and Merrifield posted virtually identical lines in 2009 (Bradley .349 average, 11 home runs, 46 RBI, Merrifield .340 average, 11 home runs, 49 RBI), and they will be expected to shoulder the load in 2010. They will be joined by slugging first baseman Nick Ebert (.323 average, 23 home runs, 72 RBI in 2009) and multifunctional pitcher/offensive threat Parker Bangs (.328 average, 5 home runs, 36 RBI in 2009).
On the mound, South Carolina looks to be a pretty good shape. While there is no standpoint performer returning to the team in 2010, there are a number of good solid performers coming back who should keep the games close enough to give the South Carolina offense a chance to win them. Lefthanders Michael Roth (1-1, 4.22 ERA) and Adam Westmoreland (4-2, 4.24 ERA) are two prime examples of this. Righthander Blake Cooper (9-4, 4.50), the most accomplished pitcher returning to the team this year, is another.
Learn all about Why Cocky is the Gamecocks Mascot and Why South Carolina picked garnet and black as its color?
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