Gamecocks advance to regional championship

After a hard-fought pitcher's duel, South Carolina was able to breathe a little easier Saturday night as they jumped all over Stetson and hung on for an 11-5 victory to advance to the Columbia Regional championship. Colby Holmes earned the win and Robert Beary sparked the Carolina offense with a third-inning grand slam. The Gamecocks played the winner of Sunday afternoon's Stetson/N.C. State game.

In what has been a very competitive Regional the first three games, game four was anything but competitive. South Carolina sent 17 batters to the plate in the third and fourth innings, scoring 10 runs that included a Robert Beary grand slam, and cruised to an 11-5 victory Saturday night to advance to the championship game of the Columbia Regional to be played Sunday night at 7:00. Carolina pounded out 12 hits in the win. The Gamecocks (47-14) will face the winner of the elimination game between NC State and Stetson (42-19) that is set for 1:00 Sunday afternoon for a berth in next week's Super Regional.

"A great win for us tonight," Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said after the game. "I thought it was going to be difficult for us in the early going. We came right back and had the six-run third and four-run fourth. Colby settled down after he gave up the solo homerun and got deeper into the game. Just like yesterday they came storming back. We're happy to be where we are."

Like Georgia Southern did last night, Stetson got on the board first. Trey Blackman hit a two-out solo homerun over the wall in left in the top of the second inning to give the Hatters a 1-0 lead. Blackman picked a good time to hit his first homerun of the season.

Carolina exploded in the third with plenty of help from Stetson starter Will Dorsey. Evan Marzilli led off with a double off the wall in right center and Wingo followed with a beautifully placed bunt single. Christian Walker was hit by a Dorsey pitch to load the bases with no outs for Brady Thomas. Thomas couldn't come through, grounding into a 6-4-3 double play that did score Marzilli to tie the game.

That's when Doresy lost control. Dorsey walked Adrian Morales, Jake Williams, and Peter Mooney to walk home Wingo and give Carolina a 2-1 lead. With Beary up in the count 2-0, Dorsey placed one on a platter that Beary feasted on. There was no doubt as the ball sailed over the wall in left for a grand slam that gave the Gamecocks a 6-1 lead and end Dorsey's day after just 1 2/3 innings pitched. Dorsey finished with six earned runs on seven hits, two strikeouts, three walks, and one hit batter.

"I saw he wasn't spotting up as much and I kind of took that and ran with it," Beary said. "He threw me a couple of sliders and coach gave me a sign to look for a fastball and I got it and put a good swing on it."

South Carolina sent nine batters to the plate in the frame, with Beary hitting his first homerun since March 23rd against Rhode Island and the first grand slam since Christian Walker's against USC-Upstate.

"I'm not sure where we'd be without Robert Beary," Tanner said. "With the things we've been going through on the field and having to move guys in and out, Robert Beary has been a constant for us. He's played left and right, third, behind the plate, and DH so he's a guy that's enabled us to move guys here and there. He's been outstanding."

The Gamecocks would add on four more in the fourth. Marzilli again lead off with a single, followed by consecutive singles by Wingo and Walker to score Marzilli. Thomas walked, Williams delivered a two-run double, and Mooney would hit a sacrifice fly to give Carolina a commanding 10-1 lead.

"Will Dorsey threw his off-speed stuff early and we got that homerun and momentum was our way," Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. "Then all of a sudden Will lost command and when he does that things can go bad. We tried to force the off-speed, but when we went down 2-0 to Beary we had to throw a fastball and he made us pay for it. Then we went out and gave up a four-spot and it's very difficult to come back from that kind of deficit. Proud of our guys that kept fighting back. I told Ray when we shook hands that we'll see you tomorrow night. We're planning on doing that."

Steven Neff led off the fifth with his fifth home of the season to close out the scoring for the Gamecocks. It was also the last hit Carolina.

After giving up a leadoff double to Jeff Simpson to start the game and the Blackman homerun, Gamecock starter Colby Holmes calmed down until the seventh, where he gave up a three-run homerun to Mitchel Brennan that ended his night. Making his first NCAA Tournament appearance, Holmes gave up seven hits, four runs, three strikeouts, and one walk in 6 2/3 innings. He improved to 7-3 on the season.

"I think Colby made a statement for me in Gainesville," Tanner said. "On a Sunday in a situation where he had to pitch well or we weren't going to have an opportunity to win against one of the better teams in the country. He was stoic - his poise and composure that day was the best I've ever seen it. For me that message was sent that he's ok. "

The bullpen took over from there. Webb came on to finish the seventh, inducing a groundout to Mooney off the bat of Simpson. Jose Mata came on to start the eighth. After giving up back-to-back singles to open the frame, Mata struck out Nick Rickles and Mark Jones. With left-handed Spencer Theisen up, pitching coach Jerry Meyers went with left-handed pitcher Bryan Harper. Harper induced a grounder to second to end the inning.

John Taylor came on in the ninth to try and end it, but struggled with his control. He hit Blackman to lead off the inning and walked Emory. Brennan singled up the box to load the bases with nobody out and the top of the lineup coming up. Taylor calmed down, forcing Simpson into a fielder's choice, then struck out Robert Crews and Ben Carhart to end the game.

"We have a very good team," Marzilli said. "Guys up and down the order can swing it. Hopefully we can keep doing that."

Forrest Koumas will get the start in Sunday's game. South Carolina will be the visitors. If there were to be a deciding game Monday night, Neff would likely get the start.


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