Gamecocks fall to Cougars 5-4

The Gamecocks must be glad they've played their last game in Charleston this year. They are 2-2 in Charleston and 8-0 everywhere else after losing a nail biter in 10 innings to the College of Charleston at Joe Riley Park. The Cougar's all-time RBI leader Chris Campbell hit a game winning double in the bottom of the tenth inning to send his team home winners 5-4 over the fourth ranked Gamecocks.

In the first meeting between the two schools since 2001, the Cougar pitchers held South Carolina to a season low five hits. It was the first win by the Cougars in the series since 1998, when they won the first of a three game series to open that season. The Gamecocks had then run off nine straight wins before tonight's loss. Coach Ray Tanner said after the game that "Quite frankly we didn't deserve to win this game. We didn't do enough to win the game. They have a great team and they are certainly deserving of this victory. They did everything they needed to do to win. They were the better team tonight."

Though played at Riley Park instead of on the College of Charleston campus, the game was designated a home game for the Cougars. Gamecock fans made up two thirds of the crowd of 3428 in attendance, but the Cougar fans were the more vocal of the two fan bases on this night.

The two teams' last meeting in 2001 ended in coaches from both teams meeting at home plate and having a shouting match over several incidents in the game, necessitating security to be called to the field to break it up. The two teams were scheduled to have a home-and-home series the following season, but USC Coach Ray Tanner cancelled it, stating at the time that "I'm not going to play any school where the coaches won't shake hands after the game." Charleston coach John Pawlowski said he shook hands with Tanner but not with Gamecock third-base coach Jim Toman. Toman, who was a candidate for the Cougar job when Pawlowski was hired 16 months earlier, had words with Charleston third baseman Mitch Miggenburg over Toman allegedly trying to look in at the catcher's signs.

Everything appears to be back to normal between the two teams, as they are scheduled to play a home and home two game series next year. Both coaches were very complimentary of each other and their respective programs after the game.

Pawlowski was hired before the 2000 season began, and is used to being in the opposite dugout from the Gamecocks. The Cougars head coach was a pitcher for Clemson in his college days, where he also was an assistant coach from 1994 to 1998.

After a quiet first inning, the game had a little drama to start off the second as James Darnell was waved around by third base coach Jim Toman for a rare attempt at an in-the-park home run. Darnell hit the ball deep in the right field corner, and the College of Charleston right fielder Gabe Marchant made an attempt at the plate possible with a perfect throw to second baseman Chris Campbell, who relayed the ball to the plate, where Darnell was called out by an inch by the home plate umpire. That lost run proved to be the difference in the game.

Cougar left-handed sophomore Jeff Beliveau threw 107 pitches in 6 innings, allowing only 2 hits and throwing ten strikeouts. He walked six batters and had one unearned run. "Beliveau was really good," Tanner said after the game. The Cougar pitching staff collectively gave up a lot of walks, but were able to overcome them, stranding 14 Gamecock base runners in the game. Mike Lynn came in to pitch for the Cougars in the top of the 7th, and Brian Schlitter ended up being the game-winning pitcher, though he only pitched 2.1 innings.

The state of South Carolina has an abundance of riches when it comes to college baseball, with USC, Clemson and Coastal Carolina all being ranked in most of this week's polls. Charleston is now 12-1 on the season and was ranked 30th in one poll this week, but with the Cougars' upset of the 4th ranked Gamecocks, they should be in all the polls next week.

The College of Charleston was a solid team in 2006, with a school record 47 wins and 25 league victories. They reached a national ranking as high as 12th and played in the Atlanta Super Regional against Georgia Tech, like the Gamecocks last year falling just short of going to the College World Series.

Charleston scored first, scoring one run in the second inning. In the top of the fourth inning, Darnell's woes continued when he was picked off when he was caught between first and second on a hit and go. In the bottom of the fourth, the Cougars scored two more to take a 3-0 lead.

In the 6th inning Beliveau loaded the bases with two walks and an error. The Gamecocks scored their first run of the game when catcher Trent Kline got an RBI and the second out of the inning. Redshirt junior Harley Lail pinch hitter was then walked, setting up a potential big inning for USC. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Reese Havens' struggles at the plate continued when he popped out to end the inning and the threat. At that point Charleston still led 3-2.

USC fell just short of big plays on several occasions. In the 7th inning Justin Smoak hit a potential game-tying long ball that brought the USC fans to their feet but was caught on the warning track. USC baseball SID Andrew Kitick stated at the time, "It would have been a homer at Sarge Frye."

Robbie Grinestaff made his first appearance since their last trip to Charleston on February 18 as a pinch hitter in the 8th. The top of the eighth inning had a little bit of everything with three walks, a single, a hit batter and an error. Reese Havens connected with a RBI single to cut the deficit to one run. The bases were loaded when USC freshman phenom Lonnie Chisenhall came to the plate with hero written down as his role, and promptly hit seven foul balls out of eight pitches before making it safely to first on an error by second baseman Campbell and sending Cheyne Hurst trotted home to tie the game. Now with the bases loaded the hero's role fell to Charleston native Justin Smoak, who challenged the pitcher Lynn to a classic pitcher-batter duel, before walking home the fourth run of the game to give USC their first lead of the game, 4-3.

The Cougars came up in the bottom of the inning trailing for the first time, and facing USC closer Wynn Pelzer. They drew blood when their lead off hitter Oliver Marmol hit a double to left field, and then tied the game when he was sent home on a RBI single by catcher Alex Garabedian, who was tagged out at second to end the inning.

In the top of the ninth, James Darnell redeemed himself for the earlier miscues by beating the play at first. He then was advanced to second and then third by infield outs on Willard and Kline. Cheyne Hurst came to bat for the first time, battling Lynn with foul ball after foul ball before finally striking out to bring the Cougars up for a chance for a bottom of the ninth win.

Pelzer opened the inning with only the fourth strikeout of the game for USC, and then allowed a double by Maiden, before Maiden was thrown out at home plate to deny the Cougars and send the game into extra innings.

Chisenhall's first hit of the game, his eleventh in 12 games this year, came to angry cries from the Cougar crowd in the right field bleachers as he beat out a razor close double clutch throw from the short stop Marmol. The Gamecock part of the tenth ended without a run, once again giving the Cougars a chance at the win.

Curtis Johnson replaced Pelzer as pitch for the Gamecocks, recording one out before walking the second and third batters Marmol and Marchant. Campbell came up to bat with 208 career RBIs, the career record holder for the College of Charleston, and USC Coach Ray Tanner pulled Johnson for right-hander Jordan Costner. It was one too many at bats for USC, as he hit the game-winning double as the Cougars win 5-4. Johnson was charged with the loss, and USC's five-game winning streak came to an end, as the Gamecocks fall to 10-2 on the season.

The College of Charleston outhit Carolina 12-5 with Campbell, Alex Garabedian, and Michael Harrington, Graham Maiden and Stuart Haywood each with two hits. James Darnell was the lone Gamecock with more than one hit in the game as he finished 2-for-3.

South Carolina returns home to begin a nine-game homestand starting with a three-game series this weekend against Brown. Start times for this weekend are 7 pm, 4 pm and 1:30 pm.

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