Gamecocks rally again

DeAngelo Mack's two-run single in the ninth inning lifted South Carolina to a 7-6 come-from-behind win over #20 Clemson at Carolina Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Gamecocks, who took a 2-0 lead in the four-game season series, improved to 21-10, while the Tigers dropped to 20-11. It was Clemson's first-ever game in the Gamecock's new facility.

The back-and-forth game saw the Tigers take a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning on John Nester's run-scoring, infield single. But the Gamecocks, who had their previous eight batters retired entering the ninth inning, loaded the bases with one out in the ninth before Mack sent South Carolina home with a victory with his two-run walkoff single.

Gamecock reliever Curtis Johnson (2-0) earned the win, as he tossed 2.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Tiger reliever Casey Harman (3-2) suffered the loss, as he allowed the two ninth-inning runs. The loss spoiled an outstanding relief effort by Tomas Cruz. The junior righty pitched a career-high 4.0 innings and tied his career-high with five strikeouts. He also allowed just one hit, one run, and no walks.

The Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning after the first two batters of the inning were retired. Jeff Schaus started the rally with a walk and Ben Paulsen followed with a bloop double down the left-field line. Kyle Parker then came through with a sharp single up the middle to score Schaus and Paulsen.

However, the Gamecocks responded with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Jackie Bradley, Jr. led off with a double up the middle and scored on Whit Merrfield's single to right-center. Mack followed with a wind-aided, two-run homer to right-center that just cleared the wall. It was his ninth long ball of the season. Three batters later with two outs, Parker Bangs belted a solo home run to left-center, his second homer of the year.

In the third inning, the Tigers took advantage of two Gamecock errors to tie the score. Addison Johnson and Schaus both reached on errors to put runners at second and third with no outs. Paulsen's groundout plated Johnson and advanced Schaus to third. Parker then lofted a sacrifice fly to left to score Schaus.

Clemson regained the lead in the fourth inning. Jason Stolz lined a one-out single to left and went to third two batters later on Johnson's two-out single through the left side. Schaus walked to load the bases, then Paulsen walked on four pitches to bring home Stolz. Parker then hit a deep drive to left field, but the brisk left-to-right crosswind kept the ball in the park, allowing Mack to make the inning-ending catch with his back against the wall.

With a steady wind still blowing towards the right-field foul pole in the sixth inning, Scott Wingo tied the score when he hit a controversial solo home run to right field, his third long ball of the season. The second-base umpire first ruled that the ball did not clear the top of the wall before it bounded back into play, as Wingo strolled into second base with an apparent double. But after a lengthy discussion with the other three umpires, the call was reversed and Wingo was awarded a home run. The next two Gamecocks struck out to end the frame.

In the seventh inning, another South Carolina error enabled the Tigers to score a run. Brad Miller laced a two-out single through the right side and stole second. Pinch-hitter Chris Epps hit a routine grounder to first-baseman Nick Ebert, who committed his second error of the game, allowing Epps to reach and Miller to advance to third base. Ebert entered the game with only one error in 238 chances on the season. Nester then belted a ball off the pitcher's leg and reached on an infield single, as Miller scored to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead.

In the ninth inning, the Tigers called on Harman to close the game. But pinch-hitter Adam Matthews led off with a single to left on a 2-2 breaking pitch and went to second on a wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Casey Rihn squared around to bunt several times during his plate appearance, but he walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. Bradley moved both runners up a base with a sacrifice bunt, then Whit Merrfield was intentionally walked to load the bases. Mack came through with a sharp single through the right side to score Matthews and Rihn for the walkoff win.

Mack led the Gamecocks' nine-hit attack by going 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs. Nester had a team-high two hits for Clemson, who had seven hits. Parker added three RBIs, while Paulsen drove in two runs.

Clemson and South Carolina will play again on Wednesday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. First pitch for the game is scheduled for 7:00 PM.

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