Gamecocks Absorb 1st Loss In Xtra Innings To LSU

Two of the top college baseball teams had to work a little overtime Friday. LSU, the top ranked team in one of the two major polls, scored three runs in the 11th to outlast South Carolina, 6-3, Friday night before an overflow crowd of 5,481 at Sarge Frye Field ...

The loss, which came in the conference opener, snapped USC's 18-game winning streak to open the season. LSU is 17-2, 1-0 in the SEC.

USC had its opportunities in the late innings to put away the Tigers. After the Gamecocks had tied the game in the 8th on a two-run homer by Brendan Winn, his fifth of the season, USC had the winning run on base in the bottom of the 9th but a pickoff ended that threat.

In the bottom of the 10th, Landon Powell (4-for-5) doubled with one out but didn't advance any further.

USC starter Billy Buckner (7.1 IP, 8 hits, 3 runs, 5 K, 0 BB) was perfect until the fifth when a solo homer scored LSU's first run.

Buckner sailed through the 1st, retiring LSU on two grounders and a called third strike.

USC had a baserunner early when Steven Tolleson, the leadoff hitter, was hit in the shoulder on a 1-2 pitch. Bryan Triplett popped out to second on a hit-and-run, and Tolleson had to scurry back to first.

Powell ripped a 1-2 pitch into left field for a single, moving Tolleson into scoring position. He advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Tolleson scored to give USC a 1-0 lead when the LSU third baseman mishandled a grounder by Winn and threw wildly to first. Powell went to third and Winn to second on the errant throw.

Things ended on an interesting note when the LSU centerfielder appeared to momentarily lose Michael Campbell's otherwise routine fly in the lights. However, he recovered in time to make the catch for the third out.

Buckner again set down the Tigers in order in the 2nd on two groundouts and a foul out (nice catch by Winn). USC followed suit with a quiet bottom of the inning.

Buckner made it a perfect 9-for-9 on his first trip through LSU's batting order by retiring the Tigers in order in the top of the 3rd. USC had a couple of decent hacks against LSU starter Justin Meier in the home half of the inning but went down in order (third out was a deep fly to the warning track in straightaway center by Steve Pearce).

Buckner's domination of the LSU hitters extended into the 4th. There were a few anxious moments when a sinking liner to center looked like it may drop in but CF Davy Gregg made a nice running catch for the second out.

As good as Buckner was, Meier matched him pitch for pitch. USC continued its tendency of popping the ball up against Meier in the 4th as the first two outs came on popups in the infield.

Buckner retired the first two LSU batters in the 5th to run his streak to 14 in a row before Jon Zeringue homered to right center to tie the score at 1-1.

Buckner then surrendered a line drive single to center but struckout the next batter for the third out.

USC wasted a good scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 5th. Ryan Mahoney walked with one out to give USC its first baserunner since the 1st. Gregg laid down a nice bunt between the pitchers mound and third and beat the throw to first. The ball eluded the LSU first baseman and Mahoney slid into third with a head first slide.

With the top of the order next up for USC, things looked bright for the Gamecocks to snap the tie. But Tolleson lined out softly to the third baseman as Mahoney had to scramble back to the bag.

Triplett worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases for Pearce, who swung and missed on strike three to end the inning.

LSU took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 6th. A double to the gap in left-center by LSU's No. 9 hitter started it for the Tigers. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third before a sacrifice fly to medium left scored the run.

Powell led off the bottom of the 6th with a line drive double down the right field line but followed up that base hit with a key baserunning blunder that may have cost the Gamecocks the tying run.

Winn hit a slow roller toward the hole between short and third. Powell hesitated before taking off. He was an easy out at third. Campbell lined to left and King groundout to second to end the inning on a frustrating note for USC.

LSU had a leadoff double for the second consecutive inning in the 7th. Buckner retired the next two hitters on a groundout and popup to third which failed to advance the runner.

A solid single to left moved the runner to third before a forceout at second allowed Buckner to escape the inning unscathed.

Ryan Mahoney walked for the second time on a 3-2 pitch to start the USC 7th. Pinchrunner Steven Reinhold moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gregg. Tolleson struckout for the second time on a checked swing.

Triplett was hit by the first pitch he saw to give USC runners at first and second with two outs. Pearce watched strike three on a pitch on the outside corner to end the inning.

LSU had a leadoff single in the 8th, the third straight inning the Tigers put the leadoff runner on, before a sacrifice bunt (great play by Powell to field the bunt, spin, and throw the runner out) moved him to second.

A single to center plated the run to give LSU a 3-1 lead. Another single to left, the third hit of the inning for the Tigers, drove Buckner from the mound in favor of lefthander Arik Hempy.

Hempy got the first batter he faced on a popup to second (infield fly rule) and then got out of the inning on a hard grounder to short that nearly eluded Tolleson.

After leaving six baserunners stranded in the previous three innings, USC finally solved Meier in the 8th. Powell got USC started with a bouncing single up the middle. Winn then brought the crowd to its feet with a mammoth homer to left that the LSU leftfielder simply stood and watched.

The next three batters went down on a line out to first and two strikeouts as the teams headed to the 9th tied at 3-3.

USC head coach Ray Tanner brought in closer Chad Blackwell to pitch the 9th for the Gamecocks. After allowing a runner on a hit batsman, Blackwell walked LSU's No. 9 hitter on a 3-2 pitch with two outs to put the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Blackwell worked LSU's leadoff hitter to a full count before sneaking a fastball past him for called strike three.

Meier came out for the 9th for LSU. After Davy Gregg's attempt to get with a bunt failed, Tolleson singled to left for his first hit of the night.

That hit prompted LSU head coach Smoke Laval to go to his bullpen. He brought in a southpaw to face Triplett, a righthanded batter. Triplett fell behind 1-2 when Tolleson was picked off first.

Triplett's smash up the middle was knocked down by the LSU pitcher, who tossed to first for the third out.

Blackwell issued a walk to LSU's cleanup hitter with two outs in the 10th before whiffing the next batter for the final out.

Lefthander Greg Smith took the mound for LSU in the 10th. Pearce struckout for the third straight time on three pitches.

Powell lofted a high fly down the right field line that appeared would drift foul. But the ball landed fair near the line, barely eluding the glove of the LSU rightfielder, as Powell cruised into second.

However USC could not take advantage as Winn struckout and Campbell grounded out sharply to second.

LSU put a runner into scoring position with one out in the 11th on a hit batsman and wild pitch. LSU's No. 9 hitter delivered a sharp single to center to score the eventual game-winning run.

A single to right put runners on the corners with two outs. Another single just out of reach of Tolleson at short scored another run to give LSU a 5-3 lead.

Zach McCamie replaced Blackwell and gave up a run-scoring single before a strikeout ended the inning.

USC got a runner on in the bottom of the 11th but went down meekly with a pair of strikeouts.

NOTES: Friday's game marked USC's second extra-inning affair of the season. USC defeated Clemson, 8-7, in 10 innings on March 7th. . .USC is 6-5 in the last 11 games against LSU. . .Landon Powell was 4-for-5 Friday to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. He recently became the 18th player in USC history to collect more than 200 career hits. . .Kevin Melillo did not play Friday due to a sore hand. He was replaced in the lineup by Tommy King. Melillo is unlikely to play in the LSU series. . .USC's 18-0 start was the second best in Gamecocks history behind the 22-0 start of the 2000 squad. . .Friday marked the 10th errorless game by USC this season. . .USC pitchers struckout 11 and walked 2 Friday. Through 19 games, USC pitchers have struckout 225 and walked only 21. . .Aaron Rawl (4-0) will start Saturday's game against Lane Mestepey (3-1), a two-time All SEC selection.

LSU – 000 011 010 03 = 6-12-2
USC – 100 000 020 00 = 3-8-0

WP-Greg Smith (1-0)
LP-Chad Blackwell (0-1)
HR-USC, Brendan Winn (8trh, one on); LSU, Jon Zeringue (5th, none on).
Time: 2:56

Next Game: Sat. 3/20 v. LSU, 4:00 p.m.

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