Gamecocks take dramatic game one

Chances of a win were bleak for South Carolina when the Gamecocks trailed 6-3 with two outs in the eighth. But the Gamecocks scored four runs to steal the 7-6 victory Friday night at Carolina Stadium. Gamecocks are now 25-10 and 6-7 in the SEC while Mississippi State drops to 21-13 and 5-8 in league play.

South Carolina was all smiles as it celebrated its 7-6 come-from-behind victory over Mississippi State Friday night.

But that was far from the case just minutes earlier.

Most of the 8,105 fans at Carolina Stadium were silent.

Their Gamecocks, who had earlier blown a 3-0 lead of their own, were down 6-3 with two outs in the eighth. And despite hovering over 100 pitches thrown, Mississippi State starter Chris Stratton had only gotten better as the game went on.

But then, a glimmer of hope: freshman catcher Grayson Greiner's high fly ball to left field just cleared the fence to cut the lead to 6-4.

"With two outs, I was just trying to get on base [and] keep the inning going," Greiner said. "He had my number all night. Two outs, nobody on base, I figured he'd tap me with a fastball and he did, and I got it up the in air."

Then came another hit -- a seemingless meaningless grounder up the middle from Adam Matthews that accomplished two importants feats: extended the inning and chased the tiring Stratton.

That's when Mississippi State turned to it's usually reliable closer Caleb Reed. Reed was seven-for-seven in save opportunities prior to Friday, but Brison Celek greeted him with a double down the left field line to put runners at second and third.

South Carolina coach Ray Tanner then turned to Sean Sullivan as a pinch-hitter. Tanner calls Sullivans one of the team's most unselfish players and credits him for doing things the right way. But just two days earlier, Sullivan was put in a similar situation in the Gamecocks' loss to Francis Marion, only to see his bid for a bloop hit get caught by a shallow-playing outfielder.

This time, the game of baseball smiled on Sullivan. Facing an 0-2 count, he shot the next pitch towards right field and it landed in grass, right in front of the diving glove of right fielder Brent Brownlee.

"I was just able to find a hole and we were able to win it," Sullivan said. "That's all that matters."

When the dust cleared, Sullivan, was standing on third with a triple and the score was tied 6-6.

"I didn't know that he'd be able to drop one in the corner like that, but he understands with two outs that you've got to take that kind of approach," Tanner said. "You've got to try to shoot a ball the other way. ... He found a way to drop this one in.

"That was great to see."

All-American closer Matt Price, who had already been stirring in the pen after Celek's double, was now trying in earnest to get warm, knowing there might soon be a chance to do what he does best.

The Gamecocks' two out magic wasn't done yet. With a once-quiet stadium now rocking, freshman Tanner English experienced the most productive strikeout of his young career when the third strike shot under catcher Mitch Slauter and to the backstop. Sullivan raced home and English raced to first -- both arriving safely -- and an improbable comeback was nearly complete. There was only one step left.

Price entered the game to the tune of one of South Carolina's favorite song's, "Sandstorm", and made quick work of the Bulldogs with two groundouts to second and a blooper that was caught by shortstop Joey Pankake to give Price the save and complete the magical night.

"I enjoyed that scenario -- getting him out there for just a handful of pitches -- and he made a couple of good pitches that inning, too," Tanner said. "And that's very, very important. ... It's nice to be able to bring him and not ask him to go seven, eight, nine outs."

While, if anything, this team has shown to be resilient, a series loss this weekend would have been crippling, and a loss Friday night would have dropped the Gamecocks to 5-8 in SEC play. Instead, with the win, they improve to 6-7 with a shot to reach .500 in the lead for the first time this season in game two of the series Saturday afternoon at 4:00.

Freshman right-hander Evan Beal picked up the win after throwing four pitches to record the final out of the top of the eighth.

Stratton gave up nine hits and five earned runs in 7.2 innings of work.

The Gamecocks blew their own three-run lead earlier in the game when All-American Michael Roth gave up a run in the fifth and four runs in the sixth as the Bulldogs went from down 3-0 to up 5-3.

C.T. Bradford's solo home run in the fifth cut the lead to 3-1. Wes Rea's solo home run to deep center in the sixth then cut it to 3-2. Bradford's blast to deep right field appeared to go over the fence, but was ruled to have gone off the top of the wall instead -- what ended up being a triple still scored two and put the Bulldogs up 4-3.

Roth gave way to Tyler Webb. Brownlee's groundout to shortstop scored another run to close the book on Roth, who allowed five earned runs in 5.1 innings for the first time since his freshman year.

"I haven't had a good change-up in about four weeks," Roth said. "Not spotting fastball. Slider was almost non-existent today. Not getting lefties out. I'm not discrediting their hitters at all, I just haven't really put together a good outing in a while."

Roth got run support from his teammates early when South Carolina scored three in the third -- most of the time a three-run lead would be safe with the Gamecocks' ace on the hill.

Chase Vergason led off the inning with a single through the right side, and English's sacrifice bunt was perfect allowing him to reach safety as well.

Evan Marzilli's line drive to left loaded the bases for Christian Walker, who took an RBI walk to give the Gamecocks the 1-0 lead. LB Dantzler then snuck a single through the right side to put Carolina up 3-0.

After the explosion of runs in the sixth, Mississippi State tacked on another run in the seventh on a Daryl Norris double.

That put the Bulldogs up 6-3 and set the stage for South Carolina's two-out magic in the eighth.

Freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery will make his second straight Saturday start for Carolina. Montgomery is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

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