Clearly, this game didn’t go quite like we had hoped it would. Here’s a quick couple of thoughts from the press box right after the game. In-depth analysis to come tomorrow.
- We can’t depend on smacking the bullpen around if we see Arkansas again. South Carolina’s modus operandi all season, and for much of the last three seasons, has been to work the count against the opposing starting pitcher and then really go to work on a team’s bullpen. A lot of games that are tight in the middle innings become somewhat blowouty by the time the 9th rolls around. But the strength of this Arkansas team is its bullpen. We certainly hope to get through Kent State on Wednesday night, meaning that we’d have to defeat Arkansas twice to advance to the championship round. That plan won’t work against this group of bullpen guys. We have to hang a crooked number on the starter and then depend on our bullpen to hold onto whatever lead we’ve built up. These Arkansas bullpen guys are too good, too gutsy, and too numerous for us to expect to break through against them.
- If you come to Omaha, you definitely want to sit in the outfield bleachers. These guys are hilarious. The right field and left field bleachers get into numerous chant battles. The script often reads something like this: Left field screams “RIGHT FIELD SUCKS!” Right field screams “LEFT FIELD SUCKS!” Left field responds “SO DOES YOUR MOM!” Right field then tucks its tail between its legs and sits down. The bleacher creatures also dropped 24 beach balls onto the warning track, an unofficial record for the 2012 CWS. I sat in right field for a couple of innings of last night’s UCLA-Arizona matchup, and it’s such a cool experience. I highly recommend it to anyone considering the trip to Omaha.
- Tyler Webb was stupid good. Guys. Oh my gracious. Webb went for the longest outing of the season, throwing 5 1/3 innings of two-hit ball. Many people don’t remember that Webb began his career at South Carolina as a starter. He has been crucial in long relief this season, as Tanner can count on him to get an out or two against left-handed batters or go for a few innings of extended relief. He threw 82 pitches tonight. Not only did he keep us in the game, he gave us a chance to win when it looked nearly impossible. What a gutsy performance by one of the Gamecocks’ most unheralded players.
- The defense has steadily improved all season, and looked good again tonight. Despite Carolina’s 5th-ranked team fielding percentage, the defense has been an area of concern for much of the season. And with so many newcomers this season (Marzilli, Walker, and Matthews were the only returning starters from a year ago), most fans expected the defense to be a tad bit below what we’d been used to. Joey Pankake was especially suspect, making errors in large bunches into the middle of the season and being bailed out from many more by great scoops from Walker at first. Dante Rosenburg threw a ball into center field trying to throw out a base stealer, but other than that the defense was perfect. The infield turned many sparkling defensive plays, and the speed in our outfield is simply unmatched by any other team in college baseball. This Gamecocks have improved so much this season defensively, and even coming after a loss, that fact should not be lost on fans.