OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Texas A&M got the start it needed from Ross Stripling. The Aggies’ bullpen couldn’t finish.
Scott Wingo drilled a bases-loaded single off the right-field wall with none out in the bottom of the ninth inning to give South Carolina a 5-4 victory at the College World Series on Sunday night.
Stripling pitched eight strong innings, and the game was tied 4-all when Kyle Martin got the ball to start the ninth.
Martin gave up Robert Beary’s leadoff double, and then Nick Fleece allowed a base hit to Jackie Bradley Jr. before walking Evan Marzilli to set the stage for Wingo.
Now the Aggies (47-21) must beat California on Tuesday afternoon to stay alive. South Carolina (51-14) advanced to a Bracket 2 winners’ game against Virginia on Tuesday night.
The loss continued the Aggies’ dismal history in Omaha. They are 2-9 in five CWS appearances.
Left fielder Brandon Wood said he and his teammates only need to look at South Carolina to see what’s possible. The Gamecocks rolled off six straight wins on their way to the national title after losing their first game here last year.
“We’ve done it the hard way all the way up to here,” Wood said, “so I figure we just keep on doing it. We played in the elimination game in the regional and the elimination game in the super regional.”
The Aggies will need more out of their offense if they’re going to make a run. They scored four unearned runs off Michael Roth in the first inning, then were shut down the rest of the way. They came into the game hitting .326 in the postseason.
South Carolina won its first game at TD Ameritrade Park the same dramatic way it clinched last year’s national championship in the last CWS game played at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Last year the Gamecocks won the title when Wingo scored on Whit Merrifield’s hit in the 11th inning against UCLA.
Wingo was the right man at the right time Sunday. He came to bat with hits in 12 of his previous 20 at-bats.
“I knew the bases were loaded with no outs,” he said, “so you can come up big if you try to go up there and put a good swing on it.”
Wingo’s hit gave South Carolina its fourth walkoff win of the season and the Gamecocks’ first victory in a CWS opener in five tries.
“It’s a very unusual feeling for me to be in Omaha and win the first game,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said.
Wingo’s winning hit against Fleece capped his career-best four-hit night, and he reached base five times.
“I really tried to get the ball up in the air,” Wingo said. “When I got two strikes on me, I just tried to battle, and he threw me an inside fastball and I got it up.”
Roth, John Taylor and Matt Price (6-3) combined to hold the Aggies hitless in the last five innings.
Roth and Stripling engaged in a pitcher’s duel after a wacky first inning in which each team scored four runs.
“You think it’s going to be a football score, but both pitchers settled in and pitched extremely well, and defense made some big plays,” Aggies coach Rob Childress said. “Ross got out of a couple of jams and so did their guy. Ninth inning, we let a leadoff double happen and just like that South Carolina came and took it from us.”
Roth allowed four hits in 7 1-3 innings, and the four first-inning runs against him were unearned. His season ERA dropped to 0.97, and he hasn’t allowed an earned run in 37 1-3 innings.
Stripling, trying to become the first 15-game winner at A&M since Jeff Granger in 1993, allowed seven hits over eight innings. He walked one and struck out six, and two of the four runs against him were earned.
Injured New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain cheered him on from the stands. The former Nebraska Cornhusker was wearing a Texas A&M cap, undoubtedly a nod to Childress, who was Chamberlain’s pitching coach in college.
Stripling turned over the game to Martin to start the ninth, and then South Carolina’s offense awakened after having been limited to three hits the previous five innings.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve lost a game,” Childress said. “We’ve lost 21 on the year and our guys have been very, very resilient. We haven’t lost an awful lot in a row. And our guys know there’s still tomorrow.”
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