South Carolina’s rematch in the College World Series with Oklahoma came Sooner rather than later.
A 6-4 loss to Clemson in Wednesday’s completion of a rain-suspended game dropped Oklahoma (50-17) into the losers’ bracket against USC (49-16) at 7 tonight. The Sooners defeated the Gamecocks 4-3 Sunday in the opening round of the CWS.
This time, however, the loser will go home.
USC, which will be the home team, will start senior right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper (12-2, 2.92 ERA) against Oklahoma junior right-hander Zach Neal (8-3, 4.65 ERA).
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Both coaches know their teams will have their hands full.
“We’ve got to neutralize (Garrett) Buechele (17 HR, 65 RBIs) again,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “We’ve got to keep their lefties off base. They’ve got some guys that have stolen some bases so that becomes an issue again.”
The Sooners came away impressed with USC’s eight-run outburst against Arizona State in Tuesday’s 11-4 victory against the No. 1 national seed.
“If you can stay away from the big inning, you have a great chance in Omaha,” Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway said. “They’ve got a lineup and a club that can put up an ugly number on our side.”
Oklahoma first baseman Cameron Seitzer, who hit his 16th home run of the season in the Clemson loss, realizes how dangerous the Gamecocks can be.
“South Carolina is a great ballclub, as we saw (Tuesday),” Seitzer said. “They’re a good-swinging ballclub, and they’ve got pitching and they’ve got depth.”
USC outfielder Whit Merrifield believes that win against the Sun Devils could have a carryover effect against the Sooners.
“To knock the No. 1 team out of the tournament is big. We got a win under our belt and some momentum going into this next game,” Merrifield said. “We’re coming off a win, and (Oklahoma) will be coming off a loss. We look at that as a positive, and hopefully we’ll keep putting some runs across.”
Merrifield, who had three hits, including a solo homer, against ASU, pointed to the eight-run inning as something the Gamecocks needed after they left the bases loaded in both the eighth and ninth innings in the one-run loss to the Sooners.
“Especially when you have an offensive outburst like that, you’re going to have some confidence in your hitters. It might have been a little different if it was 1-0 (against ASU), and we’re still trying to figure our swings out,” Merrifield said. “But we felt really good (Tuesday), and we hit around a very good pitching staff. We have all the confidence in the world as a team, and we’re looking forward to playing.”
Tanner said it didn’t matter if the Gamecocks played either Clemson or Oklahoma in this game. As Arizona State discovered, there are no soft touches in Omaha.
“Everybody’s good,” he said. “Pick your poison.”
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