The Gamecocks will meet the winner of the second Friday game between host team and top seed Georgia Tech (44-16) and fourth seed Stetson (39-22) at 3 p.m., Saturday at Russ Chandler Stadium. East Carolina will meet the loser of the Georgia Tech-Stetson game at 11 a.m.
South Carolina's probable starting pitcher Saturday will be Junior left-hander David Marchbanks, 13-2, the 2003 Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year.
South Carolina improved its record to 40-20 while East Carolina dropped to 33-26-1.
Hernandez improved his season record to 5-4. East Carolina starter Will Brinson, 3-4, who pitched 7 1/3 innings was charged with the loss. Hernandez struck out seven, walked two and hit one batter in pitching his third complete game of the season. He lost his previous two complete games 2-1 to Mississippi State and 2-0 to Mississippi.
South Carolina scored three of its four runs in the first inning on five hits and two East Carolina errors. The fourth run scored in the third inning on a solo home run by Melillo, his 11th of the season.
With one out in the first inning Justin Harris singled and Brian Buscher doubled. Harris scored when the Buscher hit eluded ECU left fielder Jamie Paige for an error. Melillo singled with two out to drive in Buscher. Trey McDaniel singled and Bryan Triplett hit a ground ball in the hole past shortstop Darryl Lawhorn. The play was ruled an infield hit for Triplett and an error on Lawhorn allowing Melillo to score from second base.
All five of the hits off Hernandez were singles and he was aided by the South Carolina defense which turned three double plays.
Paige led off the game with a single but Ryan Jones hit into a double play. Ryan Norwood followed with a second first inning single but was left stranded. A walk, a single and a Gamecock error loaded the bases for East Carolina in the third inning with one out but shortstop Harris turned a leaping catch of a line drive by Lawhorn into an inning ending double play.
Jake Smith singled in the fourth inning and Hernandez did not allow another hit until Lawhorn beat out an infield single leading off the ninth inning. An error put another ECU runner on base but Mark Minicozzi hit into a double play to end the game.
The three hits by Melillo led an 11 hit South Carolina attack. Buscher and Triplett had two hits.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said he was "elated to win the first game of this regional. Chris Hernandez did a tremendous job for us and I have to give a lot of credit to Will Brinson. We scored three runs in the first inning but he didn't buckle. He's the type of pitcher that young players should take note of. When things aren't going well in the beginning you stay and battle."
Tanner added that Hernandez "was everything we wanted him to be today. Wee knew that he had the ability to go out and have the kind of game that he did today. He's had a number of good games...but we haven't given him a lot of run support."
Tanner added that Melillo "provided some run support." He said he told Melillo he was moving him down in the batting order from the leadoff spot to fifth and "I want you to drive in some runs. He doesn't listen to me all the time but he did today."
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