Gamecocks nip Razorbacks to face Arizona in CWS final

The South Carolina Gamecocks rallied from an early two-run deficit to defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks, 3-2 at the College World Series in front of an announced crowd of 22,184 at TD Ameritrade Park Friday night.

The Gamecocks (49-18) will advance to play Arizona (46-17) in the best-of-3 championship series that begins Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN2 will carry the first game of the series before it moves to ESPN for game 2 on Monday and the “if necessary” game on Tuesday.

Arkansas (46-21) jumped on Carolina starter Colby Holmes with a run in the top of the first. Tim Carver led off with a single to deep short, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Matt Reynolds’ RBI single to left.

The Gamecocks wasted a great scoring opportunity of their own in the bottom of the first. With one out, Evan Marzilli walked, Christian Walker singled and LB Dantzler walked to load the bases before Adam Matthews grounded into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.

After both teams went down in order in the second, Arkansas got on the board again in the third. Jake Wise was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and Carver doubled off the glove of Marzilli in center, ending Holmes’ night. Wise scored on a Reynolds’ sacrifice fly, his second RBI of the night, to make is 2-0 in favor of the Razorbacks.

The Hogs threatened again in the fourth off reliever Tyler Webb. Bo Bigham walked, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved to third on a single by Matt Vinson. But Webb struck out Wise and induced a fly ball from Carver to end the inning without any damage.

Webb was outstanding in relief for the Gamecocks. He worked 4.0 scoreless frames, allowing just two hits and two walks with three strikeouts. In two games against the Razorbacks in Omaha, Webb hurled 9.1 shutout innings, allowing just four hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

The Gamecocks finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Tanner English singled to center to lead off the inning. After a stolen base and a one-out walk to Chase Vergason, Joey Pankake delivered an RBI single to center. Marzilli walked to load the bases and Walker followed with another walk, forcing in Vergason with the tying run and ending the night for Razorback starter DJ Baxendale. Dantzler popped out in foul territory and Matthews fanned to end the Carolina uprising.

Carolina tallied the game-winning run in the seventh. With one out, Pankake and Marzilli coaxed walks. Walker popped out, but LB Dantzler kept the inning alive with a single off the pitcher’s glove. Matthews, batting for the third time in the game with the bases loaded, walked on a 3-2 pitch to force in Pankake with go-ahead run. With Michael Roth pinch-hitting, Marzilli tried to score when the ball got away from the catcher, but was tagged out at the plate to keep the Razorbacks within one.

Matt Price (5-4) worked the final three frames for Carolina to earn the win. He allowed just one hit with no runs while fanning five. It was his fifth career CWS win, the most in history.

Baxendale worked 4.1 innings, allowing four hits and two runs with a career-high five walks he fanned two batters. Colby Suggs (7-1), the third of four Razorback pitchers, was tagged with the loss.

The Gamecocks will advance to the championship round of the College World Series for the third consecutive season. Carolina defeated UCLA in two games to win the title in 2010 and swept Florida in two games last year to win their second-straight crown.

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