I am at a loss for words after watching one of the most thrilling baseball games I’ve ever seen. In what could be the best rivalry in college baseball, Clemson and South Carolina battled in a regional tournament matchup that just so happened to be played in Columbia, SC, in front of over 8,200 fans. With no MLB team in the South Carolina, this may have been the biggest baseball game ever played in the in the state!
The South Carolina Gamecocks entered with a 17-game NCAA tournament win streak, but throughout the majority of the game, it felt like Clemson was out playing South Carolina. Senior lefty Michael Roth managed to continuously wiggle out of trouble, but not without the help of some outstanding defense. This included a controversial interference call on a double play. Bases were loaded with no outs, and although the runner didn’t affect the play (both outs were recorded), the umpire ruled that his raised arm during a slide was an interference and thus sent the scoring runner back to third, taking a run off the board. The following batter would then fly out, allowing Roth to escape unscathed.
The Gamecocks took a 2-0 lead on a home run from RF Adam Matthews. Clemson didn’t respond until three innings later in the 7th, when Roth had begun to tire and an early entrance by the South Carolina closer couldn’t completely quell the fire. The Tigers scored 3 in the inning and added another with a solo shot from Brad Felder in the 8th. As the strike zone seemed to shrink for the Tiger pitchers and grow for the defending champs, Carolina responded with one in the eighth and a game tying run in the ninth sending it into a marathon of extra innings.
Into extra innings, teams exchanged Houdini acts including a South Carolina double off the outfield wall that was literally an inch or two from clearing the wall and winning the game. No matter, the Cocks would later string together a series of hits to win the game in 12 innings.
I can’t imagine Clemson will be able to bounce back tomorrow to beat Coastal Carolina (noon, 6/3, ESPNU), let alone follow that with back-to-back wins against South Carolina. This is was a tough, heartbreaking loss for Clemson fans, but it only further showcases the Clemson/South Carolina Rivalry. It is games like this that have helped college baseball grow in popularity and talent.
Additionally, the college game recently began using new technology that makes the metal bats behave much more like their wooden counterparts. This has made the college game less “gimmicky,” removing the ridiculous aluminum ping sound and drastically reducing the average amount of runs scored. They are now talking about switching to the more tightly wound professional ball to put a little bit of those runs back in the game and ensure that the sport’s popularity continues to grow. The last thing they want to do is slow the growing interest in the sport by taking all the home runs away.
After seeing the biggest game ever played in South Carolina, and one of the most entertaining college baseball games in ages I’m somewhat reeling and a little bitter. Putting that aside for a moment, if you’re a college football fan who has not given college baseball a fair chance, feel obliged to implore you to give it a look. Games like today’s are the reason why.
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