.... 7-3, in the opener of a SEC showdown series between two nationally ranked clubs. Aaron Rawl and Arik Hempy combined on a six-hitter to limit the Rebel offense. Hempy earned his first career save. USC is 10-9 in the SEC, the first time this season USC has been over the .500 mark in conference play.
South Carolina is finally over the .500 mark.
After a 1-4 start in conference play, the Gamecocks improved to 10-9 in the SEC with a key 7-3 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels Friday night before 3,410 at Sarge Frye Field in the opener of a three-game series between two top 10 teams.
The victory, USC's 6th in the last seven games, marks the first time this season the Gamecocks have been over the break even point in conference play. USC is 31-11 overall. Ole Miss fell to 32-12, 11-8 in the SEC.
The victory also allowed the Gamecocks to keep pace with the leaders in the SEC East, all of whom won Friday.
Steven Tolleson, moved to leadoff for the first time since returning from his injuries that sidelined him for a month, was 4-for-4 with three runs scored. Brendan Winn was 3-for-4, including a two-run homer in the 1st that gave the Gamecocks a lead they would never relinquish.
Together, Tolleson and Winn had seven of USC's 12 hits. Kevin Melillo surprised everyone by drilling a solo homer in the 4th. Ryan Mahoney was 2-for-3 as DH.
USC added single runs in the third, fourth, and seventh before scoring two key insurance runs in the eighth.
Aaron Rawl pitched six effective innings to improve his record to 9-2. The junior from Lexington allowed six hits and three runs and struckout six in 6.0 IP. Arik Hempy was nearly perfect over the final three innings to pick up his first career save.
After Rawl retired the Rebels in order in the top of the inning, a 44- minute rain delay ensued. Once play resumed, Tolleson led off the USC 1st with a walk.
With two outs, Winn lofted a fly ball to right that initially appeared would be caught for the third out. The ball kept carrying though and eventually found it way over the fence for a two-run homer, and a 2-0 USC lead.
Rawl showed he wasn't affected at all by the rain delay as he struckout the side in the top of the 2nd.
Ryan Mahoney lined a one-out double down the rightfield line in the bottom of the 2nd. He didn't advance any further as Davy Gregg struckout and Kevin Melillo bunted into an out.
After retiring the first six Rebel hitters, Rawl surrendered a walk and single to open the Ole Miss 3rd. A sacrifice bunt by Ole Miss' No. 9 hitter advanced both runners into scoring position.
A groundout to short scored the runner from third, cutting the USC lead to 2-1. A foul out to first stranded the runner at third.
It didn't take the Gamecocks long to get the run back. Tolleson started the USC 3rd with a line drive single to left. After a foul out to the catcher, Powell walked to put runner at first and second with one out.
Winn picked up his third RBI of the game when he chopped a double down the third base line, scoring Tolleson and advancing Powell to third. Campbell struckout swinging, leaving it up to Pearce. He didn't fare batter, as he was caught looking at strike three.
Rawl did a good job protecting the lead in the 4th, retiring the Rebels in order a pair of fly outs and a strikeout.
A dose of two-out lightning gave USC another run in the bottom of the 4th. Kevin Melillo, whose at-bats have been largely restricted to bunt attempts due to his hand injury, swung away and, much like Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series, somehow lifted a homer over the right field wall. The solo shot gave USC a 4-1 lead.
Tolleson followed with a single to center, the third straight time he reached base. Triplett walked. Powell bounced out to second, stranding both runners.
Rawl gave up a long solo homer with one-out in the 5th and then a two-out single to right, but a nice play by Tolleson ranging to his left behind second base prevented further damage.
Winn singled up the middle (nice play by the Ole Miss shortstop to glove the ball) and stole second with two outs. A squibber by Mahoney was mishandled by the Ole Miss shortstop, putting runner on the corners.
Gregg flied out to deep center for the final out, leaving two more runners stranded. USC had seven runners left on base through five innings.
After a one-out single, the fourth hit of the night for the Rebels, a 6-4-3 double play ended the inning and preserved USC's two-run lead.
Tolleson collected his third hit of the night when he lined a double to left with one out in the 6th. Triplett walked for the second straight time to put runners at first and second with one out. Powell, though, popped out to short and Winn flied to deep center to frustrate USC again.
Consecutive singles by Ole Miss to open the 7th put runners on the corners with no outs and drove Rawl from the mound. Freshman southpaw Arik Hempy came on to try to preserve the lead.
A slow roller to third plated the run for the Rebels, as Triplett fielded the ball cleanly and fired to first for the out. The run cut USC's lead to 4-3, and left the tying run in scoring position. A flyout to deep right moved the runner to third with two outs.
A popup to first ended the inning with USC holding a slim one-run lead (4-3).
In the bottom of the 7th, Campbell blooped a single to center but was forced out at second when Pearce bunted too hard to first. Pearce promptly stole second with Ryan Mahoney at the plate.
Mahoney was hit by a pitch, putting runners at first and second with one out. The Ole Miss coach came out to argue the call to, of course, no avail. He shifted to the mound where he brought in a new pitcher.
Gregg sacrificed the runners to second and third with two outs. USC caught a break when a wild pitch scored Pearce to give the Gamecocks a 5-3 lead. Melillo struckout (fouled a bunt with two strikes) to end the inning.
Hempy got three groundouts (4-3, U-3, 4-3) to retire the Rebels in order in the top of the 8th.
Tolleson picked up his fourth hit of the night with a single to left to open the USC 8th. Triplett lined a double to left to move Tolleson to third. Powell was intentionally walked to load the bases for Winn.
Winn stroked a towering sacrifice fly to deep center that moved all of the runners up a base. Tolleson scored to push USC's lead to 6-3. Another wild pitch easily scored Triplett and moved Powell to third.
Campbell struckout for the second out. Pearce walked. Pinchhitter Mark Stanley struckout for the final out.
Winn's three base error (misjudged a fly ball) with one out in the top of the 9th cause no damage, as Hempy struckout the next batter and induced a 6-3 groundout to end the game. Hempy was credited with his first career save.
NOTES: Current SEC East standings: Florida 12-7, Tennessee 11-8, South Carolina 10-9, Georgia 10-9, Vanderbilt 8-11, Kentucky 5-14. . .USC now leads the all-time series against Ole Miss, 17-9. . .The Gamecocks and Rebels first met in 1994. . . Kevin Melillo hit his first HR since 2/22 v. UNC-Wilmington. . .Bryan Triplett had his team-high 19th double of the season in the 8th. . .Steven Tolleson had his first four-hit game of the season. . . USC is 25-5 at home this season. . .USC has allowed more than three runs only once in the past seven games. . .There will be a 3:50 curfew in effect for Sunday's 12:30 game. Ole Miss must fly back to Oxford Sunday night. . .Last Sunday's extra-inning complete game shutout by Matt Campbell was the first by a USC pitcher in 39 years. The last time it occurred was in 1965 when Bobby Bryant blanked Maryland over 13 innings. . .USC is 8th in this week's Baseball America poll and 22nd in the Collegiate poll. The SEC has 7 teams among the top 23 in the Baseball America poll. . .There is no midweek game this week due to final exams. USC travels to Auburn next weekend. . .Matt Campbell will start Saturday's game for USC.
MIS- 001 010 100 = 3-6-0
USC-201 100 12x = 7-12-1
WP-Aaron Rawl (9-2)
LP-Mark Holliman (6-2)
SAVE-Arik Hempy (1)
HR- USC, Brendan Winn (1st, one on), Kevin Melillo (4th , none on); Ole Miss, Cooper Osteen (5th, none on) .
TIME-2:51 (Rain Delay for 44 minutes in 1st)
Next Game: Sat. 5/1 v. Ole Miss 4:00 p.m.
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