Whenever you're down 1-0 in a three-game series, there's always a one-step process to getting back into it: Win Game 2. And with a dominating offensive performance, and a magnificent complete-game shutout from Jordan Montgomery, South Carolina thumped North Carolina on Sunday, 8-0, to do just that. The Chapel Hill Super Regional will go to Game 3.
The game might very well have changed the dynamics of the series, at least a bit. We talked a little bit yesterday about the huge advantage that teams get from winning the first game of a super regional -- over the last four years, only seven of the 32 teams that did so lost the series.
But it turns out that a majority of the teams that went on to win did so in two games. Over the same time frame, only 14 of the 32 series went to Game 3 -- and the team that won the first game split those series, 7-7. The visiting team that won the second game was 4-4 in those situations. Going back to 2008, the trend is even better for the team that won the second game, which goes 11-8 in three-game series, but about the same for visitors, 5-5.
In other words, South Carolina increased its odds of winning the series by 28.1 percentage points just by winning the game Sunday. That's not a small jump. A .500 record isn't anything to write home about, but it's a heck of a lot better than a .219 record.
And South Carolina might have also helped its case by continuing to tax the UNC bullpen. In all, North Carolina relievers have worked 11.3 inning over the last two days, compared to four innings for the Gamecocks bullpen. (It's 3.2 if you want to be technical about it, given that Saturday's game ended with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but it's basically four innings.) This is from the same staff that was heavily used in the marathon against FAU, and began to show the first signs of fatigue Sunday by issuing nine walks.
At the same time, UNC Coach Mike Fox pointed out that he didn't use some of the Tar Heels' top relievers, and Monday starter Benton Moss is a pretty solid pitcher (3.78 ERA, 89 Ks in 85.2 innings). Moss will face Jack Wynkoop in the rubber game, who has a 2.92 ERA but is less of a strikeout pitcher and has a slightly higher opponents' batting average than Moss. And North Carolina has yet to lose two games in a row this season.
So nothing about Sunday's game actually tipped the series in South Carolina's favor. It just keep them in the postseason and historically gave them about an even-money shot getting to Omaha. But that's a lot better than their odds were when they woke up Sunday morning.