Tonight was a very frustrating game. Arizona simply was the better team, something that Gamecock fans aren’t accustomed to seeing. There is no single aspect that South Carolina was outplayed in; it was outplayed in all facets of the game. Here’s three quick points from tonight’s game, with more to come tomorrow.
- South Carolina’s plate approach did them in tonight. We said in our pregame post that South Carolina would have to work the count, see a lot of pitches, and try to get to the bullpen in order to win tonight’s game. They did just the opposite. Through five innings, Wildcats starter Konner Wade had thrown just 59 pitches. Promising innings after the 5th were killed by mental mistakes and baserunning blunders. And while the Carolina offense floundered, Arizona’s impressive hitters showed why they were among the nation’s leaders in most statistical categories this season. With as light-hitting as the Gamecocks have been during postseason play, they could not afford to let Arizona continue to stretch their lead late in the game. Starting pitcher Konner Wade threw his fifth complete game of the season, facing just 33 Gamecock hitters to pitch the full nine innings. It was Wade’s second complete game of the College World Series, the first pitcher to accomplish that feat since 2004. It is a necessity for South Carolina to come back with a more disciplined plate approach in tomorrow night’s game.
- It was a balanced effort, but it wasn’t enough. South Carolina recorded six hits on the evening by six different batters. But no one seemed able to string hits together, other than Grayson Greiner and Evan Marzilli when they combined to score Carolina’s only run of the game in the 6th inning. Christian Walker led off the 9th inning with a single, but didn’t have a chance to come up with a big hit since Konner Wade was very careful to pitch around him with runners on base. The Gamecocks hit just .188 on the night. If they had been able to string some hits together, they may have been able to scratch their way back into the game. Defensively, South Carolina made plays that kept Arizona’s lead manageable, but its offense was its weakest link tonight.
- Arizona’s hitters are as good as advertised. We knew the Wildcats’ offense had great stats coming into the game. They definitely lived up to that billing. I know South Carolina didn’t exactly have their marquee arms on the mound tonight, but we can’t overlook the job that the Wildcats did at the plate. As a team, they went 12-for-33 (.364) against the same Gamecock pitching staff that had held teams in the NCAA Tournament to a .167 average. With the exception of the 2nd inning, in which Forrest Koumas struck out the side, Carolina pitchers never seemed able to get into a rhythm. Arizona’s solid hitting kept the Gamecocks off balance all night, and the defense committed two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs. In short, the Wildcats were the better team tonight in all facets of the game–pitching, hitting, and defense. The Gamecocks will have to have a similar effort from their entire team tomorrow night to stave off elimination.