It's Onward To Omaha As USC Completes Sweep

The Gamecocks advanced to the College World Series for the third straight year with a 5-3 victory over East Carolina Sunday at Sarge Frye Field, completing a two-game sweep of the NCAA Super Regional. Steve Tolleson hit a dramatic two-run double in the 8th as USC rallied for the victory, then made a great play from his shortstop position for the final out. USC will know its first-round opponent either later today or tomorrow, when the Cal-State Fullerton/Tulane winner is determined.

As those t-shirts worn by a few hundred East Carolina fans boldly proclaimed, "We're Goin'."

But, instead of the Pirates going to Omaha, as brashly foretold by ECU head coach Randy Mazey a few days ago, South Carolina will be making its third straight trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, thanks to a thrilling 5-3 victory Sunday in Game 2 of the NCAA Super Regional that completed a two-game sweep for the Gamecocks over the Pirates before 5,613 mostly jubilant fans at Sarge Frye Field.

South Carolina will face either Cal State-Fullerton or Tulane in its first game in Omaha. Game 2 of that Super Regional will be played at 6 p.m. Eastern tonight. Cal-Fullerton holds a 1-0 series lead.

USC rallied from a 3-2 deficit by scoring three runs in the 8th inning against three ECU pitchers. The key blow was a tie-breaking, two-out, two-run double by leadoff hitter Steven Tolleson. However, Tolleson wasn't through with his heroics, as he ranged deep into the hole to snag a grounder and throw out the ECU runner for the final out of the game.

Once USC had secured the late lead, it was time for Chad Blackwell, the nation's leader in saves. Blackwell pitched two scoreless innings to get credit for his 19th save of the season.

The winning pitcher was Zac McCamie, who allowed only one hit in two innings of work. He is 7-0 this season.

ECU rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead with a run in the 5th and two more in the 6th. But it was all for naught as the Gamecocks made the plays down the stretch.

Bryan Triplett singled to center on the first pitch after Steve Tolleson had lined to third to open the game (USC was the visitors). Pearce executed a perfect hit-and run, driving a single right through the space vacated by the ECU second baseman. The ECU centerfielder fell down chasing the down, allowing Triplett to slide home head first with the game's first run.

Pearce, who ended up at second on the play, advanced to third when Landon Powell's hot smash up the middle was snared by ECU pitcher Brody Taylor in an act of self-preservation.

After Taylor hit the next batter on the shoulder, ECU head coach Randy Mazey wasted little time in taking Taylor, who hardly looked like a pitcher with an 8-0 record, out of the game in favor of Scott Andrews, a lanky lefty who had pitched only 20.1 innings all season. Andrews got Brendan Winn to fly to short left for the final out.

Rawl surrendered a leadoff single in the bottom of the 1st but a popup to short and 4-6-3 double play by the dangerous Ryan Jones finished the inning.

Michael Campbell became the second beneficiary of a hit by pitch leading off the 2nd. He was erased on a 1-6 forceout by Hank Parks. Davy Gregg singled to right to put two runners on with one out.

Parks advanced to third when Tolleson flied to right. Parks took off when the ECU rightfielder lobbed the ball back to the infield. Triplett delivered a clutch two-out line drive single to left, scoring Parks and giving USC a 2-0 lead.

That was it for Andrews. Mazey called for Kevin Rhodes, a right hander with a sidearm delivery. Pearce fought off a couple of 2-2 pitches before hitting a 60-foot infield single to load the bases. However, Powell struckout swinging to end the inning. USC led, 2-0, but left five runners stranded in its first two at-bats.

A single and walk sandwiched a pair of strikeouts by Rawl in the bottom of the 2nd before an easy fly to left ended the inning, giving ECU three runners stranded in the first two innings.

After a fly out for the first out, Winn drove one off the right-field wall for his first hit of the post-season. However, he didn't stop going around second and was thrown out at third (that's 9-6-3 in your scorebook). Parks grounded out 5-3 for the final out.

Rawl retired ECU's 9-1-2 hitters in order in the bottom of the third, avoiding having to face the Pirates' power hitters with men on base.

USC let a good opportunity to increase its lead slip away in the top of the 4th. Davy Gregg doubled to right-center leading off the inning but Tolleson missed the bunt sign and grounded out to third (He was greeted at the top of the dugout by an angry Ray Tanner). Triplett popped to short, leaving it up to Pearce. He hit a short fly behind third base, where the ECU left fielder made a sliding catch.

With two outs in the bottom of the 4th, ECU touched Rawl for a single to right-center and an infield dribbler that got underneath Melillo, allowing the runner to advance to third. But a fly to short center kept ECU scoreless.

Melillo doubled off the wall in right with one out in the top of the 5th, but he didn't advance further as Winn struckout and Campbell flied to deep left. It marked the third straight inning USC had a runner get to second with less than two outs and not score.

ECU finally got on the board in the 5th with a single, two groundouts, and a throwing error by Tolleson. Rawl walked Jones on four pitches to give ECU runners on first and second with two outs. A 1-3 dribbler ended the inning with USC holding a slim 2-1 lead.

USC was retired easily in order in the top of the 6th, the first time USC had been set down 1-2-3 in the game.

A double to right and infield single gave ECU runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom of the 6th. That was it for Rawl, who was replaced by freshman lefty Arik Hempy. Unfortunately, he walked the only batter he faced on four pitches to load the bases.

Zac McCamie took over and induced a potential double play ball to short. But the batter legged it out, scoring a run. ECU then executed a perfect suicide squeeze to bring in the go-ahead run. After a single, a flyout to center ended the inning with ECU ahead, 3-2.

Trailing by a run, and with the 2-3-4 hitters due, it was time for USC's best hitters to produce. But they failed to do, as Triplett struckout, Pearce grounded out 6-3 (after lining one inches foul) and Powell grounded out 4-3. The 1-2-3 inning was the second straight for USC.

McCamie walked the first batter in the bottom of the 7th. But a popup and well executed 3-6-3 double play ended the inning.

Assistant coach Jim Toman held a powwow in front of the USC dugout at the start of the 8th. Whatever he said worked, as USC mounted a two-rally. After Melillo fouled out, Winn walked on a 3-2 pitch, becoming USC's first baserunner since the 5th.

Believing Rhodes was losing his effectiveness, ECU replaced him on the mound with Trevor Lawhorn, the second baseman. A new hurler should have been a sight for sore eyes as far as USC is concerned,

And it was, eventually. Lawhorn, who had pitched only one inning all season, struckout Campbell for the second out on a 3-2 pitch. Winn stole second with pinch-hitter Ryan Mahoney up. It proved to be a key play as Mahoney ripped a pitch through the ECU first baseman to score Winn with the tying run.

Steve Reinhold pinch-ran for Mahoney and stole second on a 2-1 pitch to Davy Gregg. Gregg walked on the next pitch to put two runners on with two outs and the top of the order due.

Tolleson, the son a former major leaguer, delivered in his biggest at-bat of the season, driving the first pitch from Lawhorn, a fastball on the outside corner, into the right-center field gap to score both runners and give USC a well deserved 5-3 lead. ECU finally brought in its best reliever, Mike Flye (5 saves), who got Triplett to line to second for the final out.

With six outs to go and USC protecting a two-run lead, it was time for Chad Blackwell. He retired the first two batters before inexplicably issuing a two-out walk on four pitches. However, it didn't matter as the next batter flied to left for the final out.

After USC went down in order in the top of the 9th, Blackwell made it a bit interesting in the bottom of the inning by surrendering a two-out double. But Tolleson then made the defensive play of the game to throw out the ECU runner for the final out. Once the umpire had signaled out, the celebration among the Gamecock faithful began in earnest.

SUPER REGIONAL NOTES: South Carolina will be making its eighth overall appearance in the CWS. The Gamecocks have played in Omaha in 1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1985, 2002, 2003, and 2004. This is the first time in school history USC has gone to Omaha three straight years. . .USC is the third SEC school to make it to Omaha. Georgia and Arkansas have already advanced with Super Regional wins. . .LSDU and Florida are still playing. ECU hit 100 homers in its first 62 games this season, but had none in Columbia. . .ECU scored only five runs in the two games. . .USC will take a 10-game winning streak to Omaha. . .USC leads the all-time series with ECU, 13-4, and have won 8 in a row v. the Pirates. . .Chad Blackwell has picked up either a save or win in his last nine appearances (8 saves, 1 win). . .In his last 14.1 IP, he has allowed two runs and 14 hits while striking out 15. . . The SEC is 28-11 in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, including a 9-1 mark against the ACC. . .Steve Pearce has 13 RBI in 9 post-season games. . .USC is 164-32 (.836) at Sarge Frye Field since 2000. . .USC is 40-8 when it scores first. . .USC is 50-15, and has now won at least 50 games in three of the last five seasons. . .USC knows how to win close ballgames. Twelve of USC's last 20 games have been decided by two runs or less. USC is 11-1 in those games. . .About 600 ECU fans attended the Super Regional and certainly made their presence felt. . .Landon Powell was 0-for-5 Sunday but received a standing ovation after his final at-bat.


USC HEAD COACH RAY TANNER: "Our guys played hard. They are competitive. They know if someone is down, someone else will be there to pick the team up. I am so proud of our guys. . .All you can do is position yourself for good things to happen. All you try to do is get good enough ingredients for all of the good things to happen. I can remember Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami, and Stanford, and being down in the ninth. I kept thinking that baseball is a game that evens out. . .We've made a good run but I don't think we are at the elite level yet that other programs are at. I have heard that the third time is the charm."

EAST CAROLINA HEAD COACH RANDY MAZEY: "I talked a lot of junk coming into the weekend and I guess when you do that you better be able to back it up. I felt good about our chances in the middle portion of the game and so did our dugout. . .I have a ton of respect for Coach Tanner and his players. They have a great program and they deserve to be in Omaha. They have been there for three straight years and they deserve it. I think this experience will help us in the future."


USC – 110 000 030 = 5-11-2

ECU – 000 012 000 = 3-9-0

WP – Zac McCamie (7-0)

LP – Trevor Lawhorn (0-1

SAVE- Chad Blackwell (19)


TIME- 3:02.


Next Game: Sat. 6/19 v. Cal State Fullerton or Tulane, College World Series, Omaha Nebraska.

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