Shutout Victory Clinches SEC Tourney Berth For USC

The red-hot South Carolina Gamecocks took on a tough Tennessee team in game two today at Sarge Frye Field ...

South Carolina secured a berth in the SEC Tournament Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Tennessee at Sarge Frye Field. Aaron Rawl pitched a two hitter for his first complete game of the season, while Hank Parks accounted for all of the offense with a two-run homer. USC is 15-11 in the SEC heading into the series finale Sunday.

It took exactly 1 hour and 42 minutes Saturday for the obvious to become apparent: Tennessee's batters are virtually hapless against South Carolina's pitchers.

For the second consecutive game, USC got a complete game victory from one of it starting pitchers. It was Aaron Rawl who took the bows this day, allowing only two hits, striking out seven and walking one in a 2-0 victory over the Vols before a happy crowd of 4,502 at sunny Sarge Frye Field Saturday afternoon.

Rawl faced only 29 batters, two over the minimum, in picking up his 10th victory of the season. UT had only one baserunner after the 4th. He was quickly erased on a 6-4-3 doubleplay.

Hank Parks provided Rawl with all of the offensive support he would need with a two-run homer in the 5th. Davy Gregg had two of USC's six hits.

The victory, USC's sixth straight, clinched a berth in the SEC tournament for the Gamecocks, who improved to 38-13 overall, 15-11 in the SEC. A spot in the SEC Tourney means USC is a virtual shoo-in for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament, while each victory increases the Gamecocks' chances to host a regional.

Tennessee, once 9-3 in the conference, fell to 34-18, 12-14 in the SEC with its 11th loss in the last 14 conference games.

USC showed off its excellent defensive skills early, as Davy Gregg made a nice running catch in front of the left-center field wall in the 1st. Rawl gave up a single and stolen base with two outs but a fly to short left ended the inning.

The Gamecocks did nothing offensively against UT starter Craig Cobb in the first two innings, as only one ball left the infield (three groundouts, two strikeouts, and a fly out).

Rawl mowed down the UT batters with equal ferocity through the first three innings, as only one Vol batter managed to reach base.

After the first eight USC batters had been retired, Davy Gregg became the Gamecocks' first base runner when he singled with two outs in the 3rd. He advanced to third on a stolen base and throwing error but remained there as Tolleson flied to center.

Rawl surrendered a lead off single in the UT 4th but a fly out, strikeout, and force out ended the inning. He retired the Vols in order in the top of the 5th.

USC's second hit of the came when Pearce led off the bottom of the 5th with a double off the wall in left. He was sacrificed to third by Triplett. However, with the infield in, Campbell failed to drive in the run when he hit a dribbler to second for the second out.

Parks, who came into the game hitting .262, put a charge into Cobb's next pitch, lining it over the left field wall off the light tower for a two-run homer, his sixth roundtripper of the season. The ball ricocheted off the pole back onto the field and the Vols argued briefly that it has hit the top of the wall, but to no avail.

Gregg followed with a double to left but Tolleson grounded out to third to end the inning.

Rawl protected the lead in the 6th with a double play grounder to short to end the inning. The junior from Lexington faced only two batters over the minimum and struck out six UT batters through the first seven innings.

While Rawl was dominating the Vols, USC couldn't extend its lead against Cobb, as all six Gamecocks batters in the 6th and 7th were retired easily, four by strikeout.

Consecutive two-out singles by Tolleson and Melillo, the top two hitters in USC's batting order, in the 8th put two runners on base for Powell. But the senior catcher fouled out to third to end the inning.

Rawl continued his dominating pitching into the 8th, retiring UT on three groundouts. The 9th was just as easy, as the Vols went down in order for the third straight inning.

NOTES: Saturday's victory means USC is now 30-7 in SEC games played in the month of May since 2000. . .USC now leads the all-time series against Tennessee, 30-24. . .Saturday marked the fastest nine-inning game this season (1:42). . .Saturday's victory means USC will earn its fourth straight SEC series victory. . .Rawl threw 107 pitches Saturday in hurling USC's 10th shutout of the season. . .USC is 28-6 at Sarge Frye this season with two home games remaining. . At 15-11, USC is four games over the .500 mark in the SEC for the first time this season. . .UT batters are 6-for-69 in the series. . .USC pitchers have allowed only 19 hits in the last 40-2/3 innings. . .USC pitchers have allowed only two runs in the last three games (6-1 over The Citadel, 2-1 over UT, 2-0 over UT). . .Rawl is 23-8 in his USC career and is the 16th USC pitcher to record at least 20 career victories. . .Arik Hempy will start Sunday's 1:30 series finale.

UTK – 000 000 000 = 0-2-1

USC – 000 020 00x = 2-6-0

WP-Aaron Rawl (10-3)

LP-Craig Cobb (3-2)

SAVE-None.

HR-USC, Hank Parks (5th, one on).

TIME-1:42.

A-4,502.

Next Game: Sun. 5/16 v. Tennessee, 1:30 p.m.

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