The Gamecocks Easily Fan The Tigers In Game One

Ray Tanner's University of South Carolina Yardbirds may now add the Clemson Tigers to their early non-conference "cream puff" list of victims. With the airways in the upstate blaring the virtues of Clemson's 'monsterous' early schedule, and with many of the homerish upstate sports jockeys and talking heads touting SC's early success due to their "cream puffs" opponents - the Gamecocks opened up a can of whoop cream on Clemson, beating them by a wider margin than the score indicates ...

Billy Buckner may have just become the new best friend of many South Carolina baseball fans.

Buckner (3-0), in only his third start for USC, struckout 16 and limited the Clemson Tigers to three hits over 7-2/3 innings as USC jumped out to a quick lead and went on to a 5-2 victory over Clemson Saturday before an overflow crowd of 6,307 on a sunny afternoon at Sarge Frye Field.

Chad Blackwell got the final four outs, two by strikeout, to pick up his fifth save of the season. The 18 strikeouts by USC hurlers tied the school record.

It was the most strikeouts ever for USC against Clemson in the 105-year old rivalry.

USC stayed unbeaten at 11-0 heading into Sunday's return engagement in Tigertown. Aaron Rawl will get the start for the Gamecocks. Clemson fell to 4-4, 1-3 on the road.

The Gamecocks never looked back after scoring three runs on one hit in the first, taking advantage of some shaky pitching and poor Clemson defense.

South Carolina added two runs in the fifth on a solo homer by Bryan Triplett and a sacrifice fly by Kevin Melillo.

Clemson's runs came on a two-out, two-run homer by Travis Storrer in the sixth.

Buckner started impressively, striking out Clemson leadoff Tony Sipp on three pitches and blowing a 3-2 fastball past Storrer. He whiffed No. 3 hitter Brad McCann to complete the trifecta.

Tommy King led off the USC 1st with a walk against Clemson starter Jason Berken (1-1). Bryan Triplett fouled off a couple of 3-2 pitches before walking as well, prompting a visit to the mound by Clemson pitching coach Kevin O'Sullivan.

Berken balked on an 0-2 pitch to Steve Pearce (2-for-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI), allowing both runners to advance into scoring position. Pearce hit a hard liner into left that Sipp misjudged badly. The ball sailed over Sipp's head and carried to the wall as King scored. Triplett had to hold up at third.

Landon Powell drove in Triplett with the second run on a groundout to second. Pearce scored when Melillo's liner into left-center glanced off the glove of CF Garrick Evans for an error and rolled to the wall.

Brendan Winn struckout for the second out before McDaniel walked, the third free pass of the inning by Berken. Davy Gregg ended the inning with a groundout to second.

After Buckner struckout the leadoff hitter in the second, giving him four straight punchouts to start the game, a wild throw by Pearce on chopper over third allowed Brady Everett to stroll into second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch but that was as far as he went as Buckner struckout Kris Harvey and Russell Triplett.

Tommy King walked for the second time with one out in the USC 2nd. Bryan Triplett flied to short right and Pearce popped to second near the foul line.

Buckner faltered for the first time when he walked Garrick Evans, Clemson's No. 9 hitter, with one out in the third. Powell, though, erased Evans from the basepaths by gunning him down on an attempted steal of second. Buckner caught Sipp looking for the third out.

After USC went down in order in the 3rd, Buckner had two strikeouts in the 4th, giving the junior from Conyers, GA nine strikeouts through four innings.

Davy Gregg (2-for-4) picked up USC's second hit of the game when he singled to right with one out in the fourth. He advanced to second when Berken's errant pickoff throw skipped past 1B Kris Harvey.

Gregg moved to third when Campbell bounced to second, leaving it up to King to bring the run home. King hit a hard grounder toward the middle but it was fielded cleanly by Storrer moving to his right and he threw out King to end the inning.

Buckner added a strikeout in the top of the 5th to increase his total to 10. Buckner faced only one batter over the minimum through five innings.

USC scored twice in the fifth. Bryan Triplett led off the inning by homering to left on the first pitch from Berken, giving USC a 4-0 lead. After Pearce singled past shortstop, Clemson head coach Jack Leggett had seen enough and replaced Berken with lefthander Robert Rohrbaugh.

The moved backfired as Powell, batting righthanded for the first time in the game, doubled to left-center on the first pitch, putting runners at second and third with no outs.

Melillo drove in Pearce, making it 5-0, when he flied out deep to center for his third sacrifice fly of the season. Winn walked to put runners on the corners.

USC failed add to its lead when McDaniel struckout looking and Gregg bounced to first.

Clemson finally reached Buckner with some two-out lightning in the sixth. After a pair of groundouts, Sipp singled to right and Storrer homered to the opposite field in left, slicing USC's lead to 5-2.

King greeted Clemson reliever Stephen Faris with a one-out single to right in the USC 6th. He advanced to second on a wild pitch.

Triplett failed to move the runner up when he grounded to short for the second out. Pearce grounded to second for the final out.

Buckner increased his strikeout total to 14 by fanning the Tigers in order in the 7th. It was the second time Buckner had accomplished the feat, and the third time he had struckout the side.

Buckner struckout the first two Clemson batters in the 8th, giving him 16 K's, before surrendering a two-out single to Evans. Out came USC pitching coach Jerry Myers and in came Gamecock closer Chad Blackwell.

Blackwell worked Sipp to a full count before striking him out on a curveball.

USC couldn't convert an opportunity to expand its lead in the 8th. With one out, Gregg reached on a beautiful bunt single between first and the pitchers mound before stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch.

Campbell bounced one to the left of Storrer at second. He gloved the ball and threw out Gregg at the plate. Campbell went to second on a wild pitch but remained there as King flied to left.

Blackwell made quick work of the Tigers in the 9th, retiring Clemson in order on a strikeout (USC's 18th of the afternoon), groundout, and flyout to center.


Ray Tanner is 12-12 against Clemson in his eight seasons as USC head coach. . .After tomorrow's game in Clemson, the two schools will meet April 7 in Clemson and April 14 in Columbia. . .Steven Tolleson did not play Saturday. He suffered a strained hamstring against Furman Wednesday and is listed as day-to-day. . .USC's 11-0 start is the best for the Gamecocks since 2001 when USC started 13-0. . .USC pitchers have struckout 138 and walked only 15 through the first 11 games. . .USC pitchers have given up only 17 runs in 11 games so far this season. . .Blackwell's 16 strikeouts were one short of the USC record for most strikeouts in one game by one pitcher. . .Saturday marked only the second time in 11 games this season USC has not collected at least 10 hits. . .Triplett's homer Saturday means USC has at least one homer in every game this season. . .The three runs in the first Saturday means USC has outscored the opposition, 67-1, in the first 3 innings so far this season. . . USC has not batted in the ninth

CLE – 000 002 000 = 2-3-2
USC – 300 020 00x = 5-7-1

WP-Billy Buckner (3-0)
LP-Jason Berken (1-1)
Save-Chad Blackwell (5).
HR-USC, Bryan Triplett (5th, none on); Clemson, Travis Storrer (6th, one on). Time-2:12

Next Game: Sun. 3/7 at Clemson, 2:00 p.m.
Next Home Game: Tues. 3/9 v. Yale, 7:00 p.m.

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