Gamecocks finish off Stetson!

It took the craziest storm to ever hit Carolina Stadium, a power outage and another day of play but South Carolina did its job and finished off Stetson Monday afternoon as it defeated the Hatters 8-2 to advance to a Super Regional against Clemson or UConn. John Taylor earns the win and Matt Price picks up the save.

After giving up 15 runs 13.2 innings, Stetson had no answer for the South Carolina offense in their two match-ups at Carolina Stadium in the Columbia Regional.

Mother Nature did.

With the Gamecocks leading 4-1 in the fifth inning and the bases loaded and two outs, a red-hot eventual Regional MVP Robert Beary stepped to the plate. Before the first pitch play was halted due to severe weather within six miles of the stadium. Shortly after, severe lightning begin popping inside the stadium and the rain and strong winds followed. The wind knocked a tree down onto power lines outside the stadium, knocking out power in the area and forcing the game to be postponed until 1:00 Monday afternoon. Beary, who took some Tylenol PM to help him get to sleep, finally stepped back into the batter's box.

"I had a dream that I hit the ball off the rail and they gave me a ground-rule double," Beary laughingly said. "The pitcher came in and I was kind of anxious. I thought it was a ball I could handle."

Beary didn't hit one of the rail. He didn't even hit a ground-rule double. The result proved to be anti-climatic as Beary popped up the second pitch he saw in foul territory by the Stetson dugout. Catcher Nick Rickles made the catch as the Stetson dugout erupted.

Beary wasn't the only one who felt the anxiousness of a 16 1/2 hour wait.

"There was a tremendous amont of anixious on my part - anxiety and tension," Gamecock coach Ray Tanner said. "I didn't take the severity of the weather last night lightly, but I kept thinking we might be able to finish. (Then) You've got some innings to play and you're trying to figure out your rotation. Forrest Koumas wanted to go back out today. Then I get home and (start) tracking the other games. It's crazy. 1:00 seemed like it'd never get here. If it would have been a 7:00 game I would have never made it."

From that point on, the Gamecock offense just couldn't muster much in the way of offense until the ninth. Beary was 0-for-2 after starting the game 2-for-2 Sunday night, and Carolina had just one hit entering the final frame. To the delight of the sparse crowd that made it back Monday, the offense showed a little life in the after seeing Stetson trim the lead to 4-2. Scott Wingo and Christian Walker started the inning with singles and Adrian Morales was intentionally walked following a Brady Thomas strikeout. Jake Williams came through with a sacrifice fly to right to score Wingo, and Peter Mooney singled Walker home from second to extend the lead to four runs. Stetson gave the Gamecocks two more runs as center fielder Spencer Theisen dropped a Beary fly ball that all but ended the game as the Gamecocks took a commanding 8-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth and would go on to win by that margin.

Stetson tried to make it interesting getting two on in their half of the ninth, but closer Matt Price shut the door to earn his 17th save and give reliever John Taylor his 5th win of the season. Price, who came on with one out in the 7th inning with the bases loaded, struggled getting those final two outs, something that he's unaccustomed to.

"Coming in you don't expect that, but you keep fighting and battling against them," Price said. "They were fouling off good pitches and you don't want to leave one down the middle so they can hit it hard. I was trying to make quality pitches and they kept fouling it off, but was able to get out of that inning."

Stetson forced Price to throw 25 pitches in the inning, which - despite getting out of the inning with only one run scored - caused some concerns in the Gamecock dugout with six outs yet to be recorded.

"I've never seen two or three hitters have the quality at bats in a row that they did and we escape with only one run being scored," Tanner said. "They would not miss - they would not take a swing and miss. He would make a good pitch and they would foul it off. So many times when hitters continue to foul pitches off they win battles. When you battle enough with two strikes you get a hit more times than not. Fortunately he's been in that circumstance many times in his career here. That was big. I'm so proud of him."

The two teams traded runs in the first. Marzilli hit the second pitch of the game into the Stetson bullpen in right center. Stetson generated their run off a leadoff single by Jeff Simpson, sacrifice bunt by Robert Crews, infield single by Ben Carhart, and a sacrifice fly to score Simpson and tie the game at 1-1.

South Carolina would regain the lead in their half of the third. Robert Beary picked up where he left off last night with a triple off the wall in left center to lead the inning off. After Steven Neff flew out to shallow center, Marzilli picked up his second RBI of the night with a shot to right that was caught on the warning track.

The very next inning, Beary would come through again, this time singling up the middle to score Adrian Morales and give the Gamecocks a 3-1 lead.

Beary made his presence known again in the bottom half of the inning. With two and one out, Koumas struck out Trey Blackman on a 3-2 pitch and Beary gunned down Mark Jones at third to end the inning. It was just the second time in 19 attempts that Jones has been caught stealing. Carolina would add a run off a Williams sacrifice fly just before the storms came.

South Carolina (48-14) - who won their 17th consecutive postseason home game - doesn't know who they will face in next weekend's Super Regional, but they do know it will be at Carolina Stadium. Clemson and UConn face off in a deciding game at 7:00 at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. The winner of that game will travel to Columbia this weekend.

"For sure it will be crazy up in here," Wingo said after a word of warning from Tanner of possibly facing Clemson. "Either team will be a tough team. If we get Clemson we get Clemson."

It will be determined later if the series will run Friday - Sunday or Saturday - Monday. The NCAA will announce Super Regional dates at midnight. If it is indeed going to be a renewal of the rivalry, it will be a wild environment this weekend.

"I guess we can't convert Williams-Brice into a baseball stadium in time," Tanner said. "There's no question it would be at a fever pitch for college baseball. If they win today we're assured of getting a South Carolina team back to the World Series. I think it's great for the game - speaks volumes about our programs and the importance of college baseball in this state."

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