It took a long time to get there, but the SEC will win the College World Series for the third year in a row. The team that takes home the trophy is still to be determined.
The day started with Florida using a late offensive surge -- two runs in the bottom of the eight -- to eliminate Vanderbilt and clinch one of the two spots in the CWS final series. The only question was whether the final would be an all-SEC match-up, something that would be decided by South Carolina's game against Virginia.
That game was nothing short of epic. It started with Virginia's Danny Hultzen striking out eight of the 10 batters he faced as the Cavaliers took a 1-0 lead -- but the flu was an opponent that he couldn't pitch his way past. Once Hultzen came out after the third inning, South Carolina put together three hits and a hit batter to take a 2-1 lead, which held until the eighth.
In that inning, two errors helped Virginia push across the tying run. And suddenly the marathon had begun.
Inning for inning, the two teams' closers matched each other pitch for pitch. Branden Kline was brilliant for Virginia, throwing 107 pitches over five scoreless innings. Not to be outdone, South Carolina's Matt Price hurled 95 pitches in 5.2 innings. He also didn't allow a run. Again, these were the closers.
Virginia blinked first. Kline was removed before the bottom of the 13th, and Cody Winiarski was brought into pitch. It was not his night. With a runner on first, Peter Mooney bunted the ball to Winiarski, who threw to second well ahead of Adam Matthews -- only Winarski missed the second baseman, and Matthews was safe. Robert Beary then bunted the ball to Winiarski, who threw to third base. In this case, the throw was not well ahead of Matthews. Which was bad enough, but Winiarski's throw was once again not on target, and it got by the third baseman, allowing Matthews to score the winning run.
South Carolina and Florida will now square off in three games for the sport's biggest prize. South Carolina won two out of three when these teams matched up in the regular season. They were two of three teams tied for the SEC and SEC East regular-season championship. Florida won the SEC tournament. Both teams largely bulldozed through the postseason.
Now, they meet one more time in 2011. And this showdown counts more than any other.