• Box Score: South Carolina 2, UCLA 1, 11 innings
• Photo Showcase: 2010 CWS: Day 10
• Printable: Complete College World Series Bracket
• Video: South Carolina wins CWS title at Rosenblatt finale:
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South Carolina made sure Tuesday night that the final College World Series game at Rosenblatt Stadium was one to remember.
The Gamecocks won their first national baseball championship on the final collegiate pitch at the historic stadium. Whit Merrifield lined a single into right field, scoring Scott Wingo from third to give South Carolina a 2-1 win over UCLA in 11 innings.
Merrifield's hit touched off the traditional championship dogpile when his teammates caught up to him near second base. The Gamecocks closed their 54-16 season by becoming the first team to win their final six games at Rosenblatt.
“To get to where we are right now is just a wonderful journey,” South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. “These guys have great resolve.”
South Carolina lost its opener to Oklahoma, then stormed back with four straight wins to capture the bracket championship. The Gamecocks opened the best-of-three series against UCLA with a 7-1 win Monday, then outlasted the Bruins in a classic final game.
“The game was as good as it gets at this level,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “South Carolina just wouldn't give us anything. We just couldn't knock the door down and get a couple of runs early.”
The Bruins squandered early scoring opportunities, then were turned back by winning pitcher Matt Price in the ninth inning after they loaded the bases with two outs. Price ended the threat by striking out Niko Gallego, the Bruins' dangerous leadoff hitter, on three pitches.
South Carolina went down in order in the ninth but got Kyle Enders to second with two outs in the 10th. UCLA relief ace Dan Klein, who had not lost all season, sent the game into the 11th when he got Bobby Haney on a grounder to first baseman Trevor Brown.
Brett Krill put a jolt into the crowd of 24,390 — the largest of this year's CWS — when he rocketed a drive into left-center field to open the 11th. South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. caught up to it three steps onto the warning track, and Price finished out the inning with a grounder and a strikeout.
South Carolina opened its championship inning when Wingo coaxed a walk from Klein, fouling off a 3-2 pitch and then taking ball four. Wingo moved to second on a passed ball that almost hit Evan Marzilli as he squared to bunt.
Marzilli did get the sacrifice down, moving Wingo to third. Three pitches later, he scored the run that will go down in South Carolina baseball history when Merrifield lined a two-ball, no-strike pitch into right.
Merrifield stepped to the plate hitless in four at-bats — he had bunted for a sacrifice in the first. He had struck out against Klein to lead off the ninth, and that at-bat was on his mind in the 11th.
“I was a little surprised that they didn't walk me and Jackie to load the bases and maybe force a double-play ball,” Merrifield said. “When I saw the catcher squat down, I knew I had something to prove. They wanted to get me out.”
UCLA didn't, leaving the Gamecocks celebrating not only their first title but the last one won at Rosenblatt.
Tanner pondered the significance of this year's CWS before participating in opening ceremonies June 18. He thought about the history of the event, the history of Rosenblatt.
“And it dawned on me, it would be wonderful to go deep into this thing and be around at the end,'' Tanner said. “And to be able to survive and win the last game is really incredible.”
Tanner brought teams to Omaha in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Those squads often played for the big inning and relied heavily on the long ball. The Gamecocks' championship squad was built on pitching and defense, and that proved the key to Tuesday's win.
They got another strong start from Michael Roth, a short reliever all season whose role was to get an out or two against left-handed hitters. When called upon in the first bracket championship game against Clemson, Roth responded with a compete-game, three-hit performance that kept South Carolina alive.
Tanner gave him the ball again Tuesday, and the sophomore left-hander battled through five innings. UCLA scored its only run against him in the fifth on Gallego's RBI single, but Roth denied the Bruins the chance to build a big inning while pitching in and out of trouble.
“I was planning on going nine innings again,'' Roth said. “I never would have ever thought that I was going to start a game here in Omaha. But you know it's been great. I'm honored that they called upon me.”
UCLA also got its share of strong pitching Tuesday. Starter Rob Rasmussen blanked the Gamecocks on six hits for the first six innings. Erik Goeddel pitched around a single in the seventh, then gave way to Klein after pinch-hitter Brady Thomas opened the eighth with a single.
Klein might have gotten out of the inning without giving up the tying run, but first baseman Dean Espy's fielding error allowed pinch-runner Robert Beary to score.
Ultimately, UCLA's inability to take advantage of its chances — the Bruins were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position — did in its chances of extending the series to a third game.
“We just could not come up with a big hit,'' Savage said. “And that was the story the last two nights.''
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• Video: CWS fans say goodbye to Rosenblatt: