OMAHA, Neb. Vagabond pitcher Scott Sarver looked right at home in Cal State Fullerton's most important game of the season.
Sarver pitched five-hit ball over six-plus innings and Jason Windsor finished to lead the Titans to the College World Series championship round with a 4-0 victory Thursday night over South Carolina.
The Titans (45-22) will face top-seeded Texas (58-13) in the best-of-three finals beginning Saturday.
Sarver, pitching for his third college in three years, was brilliant in only his second start of the season. Sarver (3-2) struck out seven and walked two before Windsor came on to close out the Gamecocks and send Fullerton to the finals for the first time since the 1995 team won the championship.
''What a wonderful experience for me and for our team,'' Sarver said. ''My goal was to give our team a chance to win and try and go deep into the game so we didn't have to burn Windsor too much for the Texas series. I know he's a horse, and I'm sure he'll be ready to go.''
The Gamecocks already knew what Windsor could do. He shut them out 2-0 on a three-hitter in the first round of the CWS.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said he thought he had a good scouting report on Sarver, but the junior left-hander stymied an offense that had generated 35 runs in the Gamecocks' last three games.
''Sarver, he didn't have a whole lot of innings and he wasn't a highly touted guy, but any time a pitcher is on, it can change a game, and he obviously had his stuff tonight,'' South Carolina catcher Landon Powell said.
Windsor, who earned his first career save, limited the Gamecocks to three hits and struck out the side in the ninth.
In 12 CWS innings, all against South Carolina, Windsor held the Gamecocks to six hits and struck out 19.
Fullerton became the first team since Pepperdine in 1992 to record two shutouts in the same Series and the first team since California in 1957 to shut out the same opponent twice.
The Gamecocks became the first team to be shut out twice in the same CWS since Fullerton in 1982.
''Not in our wildest dreams did we think we'd have a shutout against a great South Carolina ballclub, a team that has been swinging the bats extremely well,'' Fullerton coach George Horton said. ''He (Sarver) looked like an All-American pitcher.''
South Carolina forced Thursday's elimination game by beating the Titans 5-3 Wednesday.
''Tonight's game mirrored the first game against Fullerton on Saturday in so many ways,'' Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. ''I thought Sarver came up with a tremendous start. He gave those guys a chance to win this game. Then they got to Windsor, and he was outstanding as usual.''
The Titans led 3-0 in the fourth against Matt Campbell (10-6) on Felipe Garcia's double and singles by Bobby Andrews and Neil Walton.
They added a run when Ronnie Prettyman hit Campbell's first pitch of the seventh over the right-field wall for his third homer of the year.
The Gamecocks' first two batters reached base in the seventh and eighth innings, but they couldn't break through against Windsor. In the eighth, Michael Campbell lined a two-out single into the outfield but Andrews, the Fullerton right fielder, threw out Steve Pearce at the plate to preserve the shutout.
''Any time we got guys in clutch situations, they would bear down and get the outs,'' Powell said. ''We had first and second and nobody out, and nothing to show for it.''
The finals will pit Texas coach Augie Garrido against his old team and former top assistant in Horton.
Garrido won 931 games and three national championships in two stints totaling 21 seasons at Fullerton.
Since taking over at Fullerton after Garrido left eight years ago, Horton has guided the Titans to four College World Series.
Horton's team was on the brink of reaching last year's championship round after a 2-0 start in the CWS, but the Titans were eliminated after two losses to Stanford.
''I'm awful excited, obviously, because this is the first time a George Horton-led Titan team got into the championship series,'' Horton said. ''I'm so proud of these guys, I can't believe it.''
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