June 25, 2012
"Yeah, you got my back against the wall."
------------------------------ CAGE THE ELEPHANT
USC is back against the wall. No biggie.
You could kind of see it coming. The Gamecocks had to burn an extra pitcher or two get here, and when they did, Ray Tanner went to the cupboard and only Forrest Koumas was there. He went into Game 1 hoping that Koumas could channel the Omaha magic that USC has worked so well over the past two years, but he couldn't.
I really thought that it would happen again, once Seth Mejias-Brean Bill Buckner'ed Joey Pankake's ground ball to start the game. At that point, I thought, "Man, it's gonna go their way again." Then Alex Mejia made a fantastic play on Evan Marzilli's grounder to start a double play, and I thought, "Well, might be here a while."
So USC lost, and is down one game. Not ideal, but not a hair-on-fire situation. Nobody's panicking, because honestly, it was probably a bit expected. Koumas was pitching with a busted elbow and hadn't thrown since May 25, and there was no other option.
Now the contingency plan slips into gear. USC caught a break early on Monday when Arizona re-addressed its pitching status for tonight — James Farris, not Kurt Heyer, will pitch. That alone gives the Gamecocks a huge sigh of relief and may come back to hurt Arizona. If the Wildcats were playing Mortal Kombat right now, they just had the screen light up to "Finish him!" and instead let him get back up.
The Gamecocks will have Michael Roth out front, their ace, their guy, their standby. In short, the guy that has been so good so many times that playing behind him automatically raises the confidence and the self-expectation to take it up a notch. As Grayson Greiner and Marzilli each said, this is no strange situation. USC was here after the second-game loss to Arkansas, and is here again.
No big deal.
* Lot of Gamecock fans flew into Omaha for the championship series, and many were out on the town last night. The game flew by, so several were drowning their sorrows/confidently predicting two wins in the next two games.
* Already saw two T-shirts, in red and navy blue, that say "2012 NCAA baseball champions, Arizona Wildcats." Hey, I also know a guy with a "Buffalo Bills 1993 World Champions" cap.