Gamecocks Rally Late, Beat Dawgs 2-1

Steven Neff threw a career-high seven inning and South Carolina scored a run in the eighth and ninth innings to walk away with a 2-1 victory over Georgia in game two of the three-game series to open up conference play. Scott Wingo's infield single scored Adrian Morales to end the game.

After trailing most of the game 1-0, the South Carolina baseball team saved its best for last. The Gamecocks scored one run in the eighth and the game-winning run in the ninth in a 2-1 victory over Georgia to even the series heading into Sunday's rubber match. South Carolina moved to 13-4 overall and 1-1 in the SEC while Georgia fell to 9-10 on the season and also 1-1 in the SEC.

"Whew," Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said after the game. "For two days we've had stellar pitching on our side and chances to win - they've had great pitching as well. It's seemed like we've been fighting uphill the last 18 innings, but we were able to push one across there at the end to even this series. Great win for us tomorrow. We got a great effort from Neff. The only inning they scored was an inning where they didn't get a hit. There's going to be a lot of these in the SEC and you've got to be able to win close games."

Trailing 1-0 entering the eighth inning and struggling to get anything going against Bulldog starter Michael Palazzone, it appeared like the inning was going to go like the previous seven innings - no sign of life offensively and a 1-2-3 inning. That all changed thanks to Adam Matthews.

After Scott Wingo and Jackie Bradley, Jr. - who was batting in the lead-off spot - struck out, Matthews came up to the dish. Matthews sent a fly ball towards the Carolina bullpen in right center, but it appeared like it should have been caught by Georgia right fielder Chase Davidson. Davidson apparently thought center fielder Zach Cone was going to make the play as he slowed up. Cone dove for the ball but was not able to get to it. By the time Davidson picked it up and threw it in, Matthews was sliding into the third base with a triple. Following a mound visit from Georgia coach Dave Perno, Christian Walker laced a double down the third base line to score Matthews and end Palazzone's night.

Closer Matt Price came in to pitch the ninth, but got himself in a little trouble. Levi Hyams sent Price's first pitch back up the middle into center field to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Price got Cone swinging before Davidson hit one past an outstretched Christian Walker and into right field. Price got Kyle Farmer looking and forced Jonathan Hester to ground out to third to end the inning.

That set up some ninth inning heroics.

Adrian Morales led off the inning with a basehit that just got by third baseman Curt Powell and into left field. Jake Williams came on to attempt to sacrifice Morales to second, but failed to do so. Williams sent a 2-2 pitch into center field for a hit with Morales advancing to second.

That's when things could have taken a turn for the worse for Carolina.

Evan Marzilli attempted to sacrifice the runners over but bunted it right back to relief pitcher Patrick Boling. Boling turned towards third and appeared to have Morales out by a good margin. Instead, he turned back to first to throw out Marzilli.

"He had me at third," Morales said. "He chose to go to first so that was a break for us."

Tanner agreed.

"From where I was standing, I thought he had a pretty good shot at it and he chose to go to first," Tanner said. "He probably had a shot to go to third base."

Peter Mooney quickly fell behind before hitting a sharp grounder to Hester at first. Hester held Morales at third and stepped on the bag for the second out.

After forcing a full count, Scott Wingo ended the game. He hit a grounder between first and second that Hester made a sliding catch to stop it, but Wingo - who was on the other end of the last game-ending hit to win the CWS - beat Boling to the bag at first to end the game.

Last night Wingo appeared to tie the game with a 2-run homerun in the bottom of the ninth that was caught by Davidson up against the Gamecock bullpen. Today's hit wasn't near as hard, but provided a much better result.

"It did (feel good)," Wingo said. "Last night I had a good swing on it too, but I just liked to get another chance at it. I feel like when it's a big situation I want to be up there."

"(Last night) actually crossed my mind when he was up there at the end," Tanner said. "I always preach that game will even out. Just keep playing and don't get frustrated and it will even out. Wingo got out in front of that pitch, got a good jump and was able to beat him to the bag."

Price picked up the win in relief, but it did not diminish the night that starter Steven Neff had. Neff went a career-high seven innings, giving up three hits and an earned run while striking out four against one walk.

"He has the stuff to be an outstanding pitcher here and in the Southeastern Conference," Tanner said. "He's been lacking key experience in his career and command at times, but there's no doubt about his ability. He showed today what he's capable of doing. He's got the stuff to give us an opportunity and I was real happy to see him do that today."

After giving a lead-off hit right back up the middle to start the game to Powell - on the first pitch nonetheless - Neff settled down to retire the next three, including a strikeout to end the inning against Davidson.

Carolina tried to get on the board in their half of the first. After Bradley, Jr. popped up to second, Matthews hit a bullet through Powell at third that was scored a single. Matthews then stole second and advanced to third as the throw from Joey Delmonico went into center field. Matthews had a chance to score on a pitch that got by the catcher, but he didn't get a good read on the the ball and was forced to stay put. Palazzone got out of the jam by striking out Christian Walker on two curves and then got Brady Thomas to fly out to center to end the inning.

After both teams went down with relative ease in the second, Neff quickly worked himself into trouble. Neff walked Delmonico and hit Peter Verdin - the eight and nine hitters for Georgia - and Powel laid down a sacrifice bunt to third to move the runners over with one out. Hyams - who was all over the bases in last night's game - reached out and poked one to short. Mooney threw Hyams out at first, but Delmonico scored to give the Dawgs a 1-0 lead. Cone hit one hard, but Bradley, Jr. made the catch a few feet short of the warning track in dead center to end the inning. Still, the Dawgs got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the third.

After the Gamecocks went down in order in their half of the third, Neff got himself in a little bit of trouble in the fourth. Davidson led off with a liner over Morales' head and was advanced to second on a sacrifice by Farmer. Neff was able to get out unscathed, getting Hester to pop up to Mooney and DeLoach hit a line-drive to Mooney to end the inning.

Neither team would threaten again until the eighth inning.

Perhaps the biggest stat of the day was the zero in the error column for Carolina. After committing five errors in last night's game, the Gamecocks made the plays on Saturday.

"We knew we didn't play our best game yesterday, but we just said 'that wasn't us and go out and just fight out there and be focused," Wingo said.

Tomorrow's rubber match is set for 1:30. Carolina lost just two SEC series last season, one at Kentucky and the final series of the season agains Florida. Tanner would not commit on a starting pitcher, saying it would be Forrest Koumas, Tyler Webb, or Adam Westmoreland.

"Coach always says wins on Sunday's get you championships so we're going to try and get this win tomorrow," Morales said.

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