Scott Wingo drilled a bases-loaded single off the right-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Gamecocks a 5-4 victory over Texas A&M on Sunday night.
Last year, the Gamecocks won the title when Wingo scored on Whit Merrifield's walkoff hit in the 11th inning against UCLA.
Wingo was the right man at the right time. He came to bat with hits in 12 of his previous 20 at-bats.
"I knew the bases were loaded with no outs," he said, "so you can come up big if you try to go up there and put a good swing on it."
Wingo's hit gave South Carolina its fourth walkoff win of the season and the Gamecocks' first victory in a CWS opener in five tries.
Last season, South Carolina reeled off six straight wins in Omaha after losing its first game.
"It's a very unusual feeling for me to be in Omaha and win the first game," Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said.
South Carolina (51-14) advanced to a Bracket 2 winners' game against Virginia on Tuesday night. The Aggies (47-21) play California in an elimination game that afternoon.
Wingo's winning hit against Nick Fleece capped his career-best four-hit night, and he reached base five times.
Robert Beary doubled off the right-field fence to start the inning against Kyle Martin (2-3). Beary went to third when 2010 CWS Most Outstanding Player Jackie Bradley Jr., playing in his first game in two months, sliced a liner into left off Fleece. Evan Marzilli walked to load the bases before Wingo launched Fleece's 1-2 pitch for the winning hit.
"I really tried to get the ball up in the air," Wingo said. "When I got two strikes on me, I just tried to battle, and he threw me an inside fastball and I got it up."
Michael Roth, John Taylor and Matt Price (6-3) combined to hold the Aggies hitless in the last five innings.
Roth and A&M's Ross Stripling engaged in a pitcher's duel after a wacky first inning in which each team scored four runs.
"You think it's going to be a football score, but both pitchers settled in and pitched extremely well, and defense made some big plays," Aggies coach Rob Childress said. "Ross got out of a couple of jams and so did their guy. Ninth inning, we let a leadoff double happen and just like that South Carolina came and took it from us."
Roth performed splendidly when, as a short reliever, he was called on to start two games at last year's CWS. Now one of the nation's premier starters, he allowed four hits in 7 1-3 innings, and the four first-inning runs against him were unearned. His season ERA dropped to 0.97, and he hasn't allowed an earned run in 37 1-3 innings.
Brandon Wood's three-run triple was the key hit in the Aggies' big first inning, but Roth allowed only two more singles.
"He definitely got better as he went," Wood said. "I don't know if it was nerves the first inning with him or not."
Stripling, trying to become the first 15-game winner at A&M since Jeff Granger in 1993, allowed seven hits over eight innings. He walked one and struck out six, and two of the four runs against him were earned.
Injured New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain cheered him on from the stands. The former Nebraska Cornhusker was wearing a Texas A&M cap, undoubtedly a nod to Aggies head coach Rob Childress, who was Chamberlain's pitching coach in college.
Stripling turned over the game to Martin to start the ninth, and then South Carolina's offense awakened after having been limited to three hits the previous five innings.
Bradley, playing in his first game after going out April 23 with an injury to his left wrist, followed Beary's double with a base hit to help set the stage for Wingo.