Brendan Winn singled home Kevin Melillo with the winning run in the eighth. The victory moved the Gamecocks closer to clinching a berth in the SEC Tournament, and gave USC sole possession of third place in the SEC Eastern Division.
Matt Campbell may have saved his best performance for last.
As a result, South Carolina continued its climb up the SEC East standings toward a near-certain conference tournament berth and a probable NCAA berth and regional host selection.
Campbell (8-3) was brilliant in his first Friday night start of the season, and his last during the regular season in front of the home fans, firing a complete game four-hitter and striking out nine Tennessee batters as the Gamecocks edged the Vols, 2-1, before 4,478 at Sarge Frye Field in the first game of a critical SEC series.
Brendan Winn drove in the game-winning run with a single to center in the bottom of the 8th. Both clubs has been held scoreless since the 1st when each team scored a run.
Campbell outdueled Tennessee's hard-luck loser Luke Hochevar (7.1 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs), who was equally brilliant until the 8th when USC pushed across the go-ahead run.
USC improved to 37-13 overall, 14-11 in the SEC, with its fifth straight victory. The Gamecocks moved into sole possession of third place in the SEC East, two games behind Florida (4-2 losers to Ole Miss).
Tennessee (34-17, 12-13) dropped into fifth place in the SEC East, one-half game behind idle Vanderbilt (rained out at LSU) with the 10th loss in its last 13 SEC games.
The magic number for USC to clinch a berth to the SEC Tournament was whittled to two. If Auburn lost at Georgia Friday the magic number would be reduced to one. (Editor's Note: Auburn did lose to Georgia 11-2 so therefore USC's magic number is reduced to 1.)
Campbell, who recorded USC's first extra-inning complete game shutout in 39 years against Alabama on April 25th, was fortunate to get out of the 1st with only one run. The Vols loaded the bases with one out on a pair of singles and a walk. A grounder to short scored the run and advanced two runners into scoring position. Campbell escaped further damage with a groundout to third for the final out.
USC tied the game in the bottom of the first but could have had more. Tolleson and Melillo, batting second for the second consecutive game and the fourth time this season, led off the USC 1st with back-to-back singles to right. Tolleson could have (and should have) advanced to third when the UT rightfielder bobbled the ball but he stayed put at second.
After falling behind in the count, Powell walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases for the red-hot Winn. Hochevar uncorked a wild pitch on a 2-2 pitch to score Tolleson standing up with the tying run.
Winn also walked on a 3-2 pitch to reload the bases. Pearce lined a fastball right at the UT second baseman, who threw to first to double up Winn trying to scramble back to the base.
Powell easily gunned down a UT base runner for the third out in the bottom of the 2nd. USC went quietly in the 2nd, with a pair of strikeouts and a soft liner to short.
Campbell gave a leadoff walk in the 3rd but recovered nicely with two groundouts and strikeout to keep the Vols from scoring.
After USC went quietly in the 3rd, Winn led off the Gamecock 4th with a sharp single to left and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Pearce. Winn stayed at second when the UT third baseman had a liner by Campbell glance off his glove into foul territory.
UT left the door open for USC when the Vols botched a potential double-play grounder by Triplett with a poor throw to first. However, Mahoney bounded out to short to end the threat and keep the score tied at 1-1.
Neither club did much offensively in the middle innings. Campbell retired 16 of 19 Vol batters from the 1st to the 6th. UT did not have a runner advance past first during that span. Hochevar retired nine USC hitters in a row from the 4th to the 7th.
In the bottom of the 6th, Powell brought the crowd to its feet for an instant with a long drive that was caught on the warning track in front of the scoreboard in right-center.
Campbell got some defensive help in the top of the 7th when Melillo ranged behind second and, while soaring in the air, fired to first to nip the UT runner.
USC got its first baserunner since the 4th when Ryan Mahoney walked with two outs in the 7th. He was replaced by pinch-runner Steven Reinhold, who promptly stole second and went to third when the throw sailed into centerfield.
Davy Gregg had an opportunity to drive in the go-ahead run but he grounded to short and was beaten by a half-step to the bag in a bang-bang play.
A boneheaded play by Bryan Triplett in the top of the 8th could have cost the Gamecocks dearly. With a runner on first and one out, the next batter hit a sharp grounder to Melillo at second. He whirled and fried to Triplett to start what should have been an inning-ending double play. However, Triplett caught the ball and immediately tossed it nonchalantly toward the mound, thinking it was the third out. The next batter lined to Campbell in left-center, avoiding disaster.
Melillo singled to right for his second hit of the game with one out in the bottom of the 8th. He stole second on the first pitch to Powell, who walked on a 3-2 pitch.
Winn singled up the middle to score Melillo with the go-ahead run, and moving Powell to second, as the crowd roared.
USC failed to widen its lead, though, as both Pearce and Michael Campbell fouled out to the catcher.
Ray Tanner elected to stay with Campbell at the beginning of the 9th. The move paid off, as Campbell struckout the first batter and then got a groundout to second as Chad Blackwell warmed up in the bullpen. Another strikeout put an exclamation point on Campbell's complete game domination of the Vols.
NOTES: USC now leads the all-time series against Tennessee, 29-24. . .The Gamecocks and Vols first played in 1912. UT swept all three games last season in Knoxville. . .USC is 27-6 at home this season, 8-5 in SEC games. . . Matt Campbell made his first Friday start of the season against the Vols. . .It was his third complete game of the season. . .The final strikeout in the 9th was Campbell's 100th of the season. . . USC is 7-2 in one-run games this season. . .USC is 7-6 when the opponent scores first. . .USC is 31-1 when leading after 8 innings. . .The 10th inning grand slam by Steven Pearce Wednesday was the third grand slam by a USC player this season. . .After sweeping Georgia in early April, the Vols have lost 10 of 13 SEC games to fall to 12-13 in the league. . .Aaron Rawl will start Saturday's 4:00 game ... Friday's loss was the seventh in a row for Tennessee.
UTK – 100 000 000 - 1-4-1
USC – 100 000 01x - 2-6-1
WP-Matt Campbell (8-3)
LP-Luke Hochevar (3-2)
Next Game: Sat. 5/15 v. Tennessee, 4:00 p.m.
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