It was a high-scoring affair Sunday afternoon at Sarge Frye Field as USC outlasted Tennessee, 12-8, in a slugfest that featured four homers and 27 hits. USC fans were waving brooms when the game was over as the victory gave USC a sweep of the three-game weekend series and places the Gamecocks in prime position to win the SEC East Division with another strong performance next weekend in Athens against Georgia. This one is going down to the wire.
The pitchers had their way for the first two games of the South Carolina-Tennessee series.
Sunday, the hitters turned the tables.
USC and UT combined for 20 runs and 27 hits, including four homers, in the Gamecocks' 12-8 victory Sunday before 4,250 at Sarge Frye Field. The win completed a much-needed three-game sweep over the Vols, USC's first sweep of a SEC opponent this season.
USC, which has won seven in a row, improved to 39-13 overall, 16-11 in the SEC. UT fell to 34-19 overall, 12-15 in the SEC, with its 12th loss in the last 15 conference games.
USC's victory, together with Florida's 10-9 loss in extra innings to Ole Miss Sunday (completing a series sweep for the Rebels), means the Gamecocks are now tied with the Gators for second place in the SEC East. Pending the outcome of Sunday's Georgia-Auburn contest, USC heads to Athens Friday knowing it will have to win at least two of three against Georgia to win the division. A sweep will give the Gamecocks the division pennant.
Michael Campbell (No. 14) and Landon Powell (No. 15) clubbed towering three-run homers for USC Sunday. UT also had two homers, including a grand slam in the 8th.
Kevin Melillo was 3-for-5 for USC. It was Melillo's best game since returning from his wrist injury a few weeks ago. Both Campbell and Powell had two hits and three RBI for USC. Steve Pearce contributed two hits and three RBI to the Gamecocks' attack.
Zac McCamie, who came on in relief for starter Arik Hempy in the 5th, was credited with the victory, improving his record to a sparking 5-0. Chad Blackwell struckout the side in the 9th to finish the win with a flourish.
While the final score may not show it, this one started out much like the first two games: lots of pitching and not much hitting. UT had a leadoff infield single in the first, but not much else.
USC went down in order in the 1st before the Gamecocks got their first baserunner on a single to center with one out in the 2nd by Steven Pearce. A soft liner to short on a hit-and-run play resulted in an inning-ending doubleplay.
Except for a meaningless two-out single by UT, neither team generated any offense in the 3rd.
After UT had a runner on in the top of the 4th but couldn't score, the Gamecocks finally got something going offensively in the bottom of the inning.
Tolleson started the inning with a walk. He was erased on a fielder's choice grounder to first by Melillo. Powell singled to right to give USC two baserunners for the first time.
Winn coaxed a walk from UT starter Sean Watson after working the count full to load the bases. Pearce also worked the count full before fouling off a couple of pitches. Watson's next pitch was inside, forcing in a run to give USC a 1-0 lead.
Triplett lined one to left that hung up long enough to be caught by the UT leftfielder. The throw home was caught off, allowing Powell to cross the plate standing up, and the relay to second nearly beat Winn back to the bag.
Campbell followed with a towering three-run homer to right that increased USC's lead to 5-0. It was his 14th home run of the season, tying him with Powell and Pearce for second place on the club.
However, it didn't take the Vols very much time to rally back. A two-run homer (UT's first extra-base hit of the series) to left and a two-run single drove Hempy from the mound with one out in the top of the 5th, and cut USC's lead to 5-4.
Zac McCamie took the mound for USC, and quickly got the second out on a fly to left. But a bad throw on a pickoff attempt and an infield single gave UT runners on the corners with two outs. A () ended the inning.
USC got all four runs back in the bottom of the 5th. Tolleson started the outburst with a one-out single. After he was balked to second, Melillo singled to center to score Tolleson with the first run of the inning.
Powell walked before a single by Winn drove in Melillo with the second run and left two runners in scoring position. Pearce plated both runners with a bouncing double down the left field line past the drawn in infield.
Triplett singled to center, becoming the sixth straight USC batter to reach base, but Pearce was thrown out at the plate for the second out. Campbell grounded to second to end the inning.
UT had a one-out double off the left-field wall in the top of the 6th but the runner did not advance any further as a strikeout and nice running catch by Gregg in center ended the inning.
Gregg shined with the bat in the bottom of the 6th with hustle double that blooped in front of the UT leftfielder. But moments later he was gunned down trying to steal third.
Two-out lightning struck for USC. A walk to Tolleson and line single to right by Melillo put two runners on for Powell. USC's senior catcher jumped all over a 3-1 fastball and drove a mammoth three-run homer over the rightfield field wall. There is a rumor the ball landed somewhere in Cayce.
UT's Eli Iorg hit a grand slam with two outs in the top of the 8th to cut the lead to 12-8.
Chad Blackwell made his first appearance at Sarge Frye since April 24th when he came on to close out matters in the 9th. Blackwell struckout the side to complete the sweep in style.
NOTES: Sunday's victory means USC is now 31-7 in SEC games played in the month of May since 2000. . .USC now leads the all-time series against Tennessee, 31-24. . .USC earned its fourth straight SEC series victory. . .USC is 29-6 at Sarge Frye this season with one home game remaining against Wofford Wednesday. At 16-11, USC is five games over the .500 mark in the SEC for the first time this season. . .Landon Powell is now second on USC with 15 HR. Brendan Winn leads the Gamecocks with 17 HR.
UTK – 000 040 040 = 8-14-0
USC – 000 543 00x = 12-13-0
WP-Zac McCamie (5-0)
LP-Sean Watson (4-5)
HR-USC, Michael Campbell (4th, two on), Landon Powell (6th, two on) ; Tennessee, Brian Cleveland (5th, one on); Eli Iorg (8th, three on).
Next Game: Wed. 5/19 v. Wofford, 7:00 p.m.
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