Six-Run Ninth By Alabama Stuns Gamecocks

USC missed a golden opportunity Saturday to move over the .500 mark for the first time this season in SEC play, as Alabama rallied for six runs in the ninth to surprise USC, 7-4, at Sarge Frye Field Saturday afternoon. USC led, 4-0, after six innings and 4-1 going into the 9th. Brendan Winn had a two-run homer for USC.

With a three-run lead and three outs to go, things were looking swell for South Carolina Saturday afternoon at Sarge Frye Field.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Alabama, which had scored only four runs in the first 17 innings, erupted for six runs in the top of the 9th inning to stun USC, 7-4, Saturday before 4,121 at sunny Sarge Frye Field. The three-game series is tied at one game apiece with the rubber match scheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

USC fell to 28-11 overall, 8-9 in the SEC. The Gamecocks missed an opportunity to go over the .500 mark in conference play for the first time this season.

All six runs were scored against USC closer Chad Blackwell, who had dominated the Crimson Tide Friday night. Blackwell suffered his third loss of the season.

The last-inning loss ruined a solid outing by freshman lefthander Arik Hempy, arguably USC's best pitcher the last few weeks, who made his first career start for the Gamecocks.

Hempy gave up seven hits and one run in 6-1/3 innings and appeared to be on his win to a win when he departed in the 7th.

Hempy surrendered a two-out double in the top of the first but escaped unscathed thanks to a perfect throw to home plate by leftfielder Michael Campbell on a hard single that nailed the Alabama runner by five feet.

USC jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st. Triplett led off with a single up the middle, He was balked to second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Davy Gregg. Powell lofted a sacrifice fly to right, USC's third of the series, to score Triplett with the game's first run.

Alabama threatened again in the 2nd after a one-out single and groundout put a runner into scoring position. But a routine fly to center ended the inning.

Hempy was the beneficiary of more fine defensive work by the Gamecocks in the 3rd when catcher Landon Powell picked a runner off second. A strikeout ended the inning.

Triplett ripped a double over the centerfielder's head with two outs in the bottom of the 3rd but a groundout by Gregg ended the inning.

Hempy issued his first walk with one out in the top of the 4th. On the next pitch, a 4-6-3 double play got the Raleigh, NC native out of the inning.

Powell continued his productive day by lining a leadoff double to right-center in the bottom of the 4th. Winn failed to advance him to third by bouncing out 5-3.

Campbell lined a single to left to put runners on the corners with one out. Pearce bounced one to the Alabama third baseman, who fired to second for the forceout. But the relay throw sailed into the USC dugout, allowing Powell to cross home plate and give USC a 2-0 lead.

Hempy had his first perfect inning in the 5th, retiring the Crimson Tide on a foul pop, strikeout, and groundout.

Tolleson advanced into scoring position in the bottom of the 5th when he walked and was sacrificed to second. However, a groundout and fly out ended the threat.

Alabama had two runners on (single and walk) with two outs in the top of the sixth and came agonizingly close to taking the lead but a long drive to right was caught by Winn on the warning track

Winn gave USC a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the 6th when he followed a single to left by Powell with a towering homer to center that kept carrying until it landed over the fence near the TV stand to the left of the scoreboard.

A pair of singles put runners on the corners for Alabama with one out in the top of the 7th. With the tying run in the on-deck circle, USC coach Ray Tanner elected to lift Hempy in favor of Anderson's Cliff Donald.

Alabama avoided the shutout when Donald gave up a sacrifice fly to his first batter. But Donald struckout the next batter to end the inning and protect USC's three-run lead.

Donald gave up a walk and single to the first two Crimson Tide batters in the 8th, bringing the tying run to the plate. The call went out to closer Chad Blackwell, who retired all eight Alabama batters he faced Friday night.

Blackwell worked his magic again, striking out Alabama's No. 3 hitter. On the final pitch, Alabama tried to catch USC napping with an attempted steal of third but Powell gunned down the runner easily for the strikeout-throw out double play. A groundout ended the threat.

Alabama cut the lead to two (4-2) with a pair of singles and a groundout against Blackwell in the top of the 9th. Again, the tying run came to the plate. This time, Blackwell issued a walk on a 3-2 pitch to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.

Melillo dove to stop a grounder from going into right field. The play saved a run but loaded the bases, prompting a visit by Ray Tanner to the mound.

Blackwell fell behind 2-1 in the count and had to come in with a strike. The Alabama hitter (leadoff Mark Haske) hammered a grand slam to right, stunning USC and silencing the crowd except for the few Alabama fans on hand. The homer gave Alabama a 6-4 lead.

Alabama wasn't done, as the next batter homered to right to give the Crimson Tide a 7-4 lead. Blackwell left and was replaced by Zac McCamie, who got the final two outs of the inning.

Michael Campbell had an infield infield single to deep short to start the bottom of the 9th but the next three batters were retired, the final one by strikeout as Alabama completed the improbable victory.

NOTES: USC is now tied for third in the SEC East with Georgia at 8-9. The Dawgs defeated Ole Miss Saturday, 9-4. Vanderbilt fell to 7-10 with a 4-2 loss to Florida (10-7). . .The all-time series with Alabama is now tied, 17-17. . .Winn's homer in the 6th gives USC 66 homers in 39 games. . .USC is 27-1 this season when leading after 8 innings. . .Billy Buckner is out indefinitely with mononucleosis. . .Matt Campbell will start Sunday's series finale for USC. He will be opposed by Taylor Tankersley. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. . .Bryan Triplett had one double Saturday to increase his season total to 18.

ALA- 000 000 106 = 7-13-1 USC- 100 102 000 = 4-9-0

WP-Brent Carter (6-3) LP-Chad Blackwell (2-3) SAVE-None. HR-USC, Brendan Winn (6th, one on); Alabama, Mark Haske (9th, three on), Carlos Sosa (9th, none on). TIME-2:30. A-4,121.

Next Game: Sun. 4/25 v. Alabama, 1:30 p.m.

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