Harley Rumbles, Smoak Roars in 13-1 Romp

Gamecock fans got a surprise Friday when Harley Lail led off for Ray Tanner's ball club against the Brown Bears. Three doubles later, Gamecock fans liked what they saw. Lail tied a single game record with three doubles and added two RBIs. Fans knew they could expect good things from Justin Smoak, but his surprise was exceeding expectations, batting .800 for the night in a 4-for-5 performance.

The University of South Carolina Baseball team pounded out 13 hits in a 13-1 win over Brown Friday night at Sarge Frye Field.

Carolina fans can get used to seeing a Harley on the field according to Coach Ray Tanner. He said after the game that "I thought this was a great opportunity to start him and he responded. He'll be in there tomorrow too. Lail had a very good fall for us and he was in the plans, but he was hurt in the pre-season and he didn't get to swing the bat for awhile. He's finally close to being healthy. He's a runner, an athlete. He gets down the line fast. He can change the game for us."

Lail is a junior transfer from Spartanburg Methodist Junior College, and had not seen a lot of playing time until Friday night. "We came out and put a lot of balls into play," Lail said. "I just wanted to strap it on and give it my best. If it leads to more playing time, I'll be ready." He is used to fighting to get what he wants. The lean Lail won an individual state wrestling championship while attending Indian Land High School.

The Gamecocks put the game out of reach early scoring six runs in the first inning. Already leading 1-0, Smoak ripped a double down the left field line scoring two. Trent Kline, Travis Jones, and Harley Lail each added an RBI to make it 6-0. Lail was up for the second time in the inning after being hit by a pitch his first time up.

Smoak raised his batting average quite a bit with the 4-5 performance including his fourth home run of the year which hit very high off of the right field light post. "I got a slider out over the plate", Smoak said. "It felt pretty good. I've been seeing the ball a little better. I took the bat off my shoulder tonight. We've been having trouble getting runners in and in that first inning, we got some in. It was good for us."

Freshman right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper earned his first career win as a Gamecock going five innings allowing no earned runs and striking out six. Cooper allowed only five hits and never saw much trouble from the Bears hitters all night. "I'm just glad to help the team get a win," Cooper said. "It felt pretty good going out there in the second with a six-run lead. I was a little bit nervous in the first but after that I kind of settled in." In his previous three outings, he had not allowed a run in four innings of work.

Three Gamecock relievers combined for four innings of scoreless work and did not allow a hit as well. Sophomore Alex Farotto struck out three in two innings, junior Sean Wideberg retired all three batters he faced on strikeouts and freshman Nick Fuller closed the game out with two strikeouts of his own as the Gamecock pitching staff ended with 14 on the evening.

Tanner was clearly pleased with his pitching staff's performance Friday. "I thought Blake Cooper did a nice job for his first time out the bullpen for a young guy. He has a lot of poise and composure. His pre-season was good, and the two or three times he pitched in 07 he was pretty good out there." Referring to the effort by his bullpen, he said, "You've got to find your eight to ten guys who will go for you throughout the SEC (season) and we're starting 15 to 16 right now. We've got to figure out who those guys are in the next five or six games. I think tonight helped us."

Freshman Lonnie Chisenhall had an off night but did provide an RBI groundout to increase the lead to 7-1, but the other big inning came in the 8th. After struggling all night, Reese Havens hit a double to the left field wall scoring Travis Jones and Lail added his third double of the evening to increase the lead to 9-1. John Willard had a pitch hit RBI and Smoak would later homer to make the final 13-1.

The Gamecocks had one error on the night, but once again Havens and Jones put on a show up the middle making highlight after highlight. South Carolina didn't escape the evening perfectly. James Darnell suffered a twisted ankle after leaving the batters box early on and was replaced by Andrew Crisp at third base. USC officials said that Darnell's injury isn't believed to be serious.

Carolina improves to 11-2 while the loss drops Brown to 1-4 on the year. Game two of the three game series is Saturday at 4 pm at the Sarge. Mike Cisco will start for the Gamecocks.

NOTES: Harris Honeycutt is being given the weekend off to give an achy bicep some rest, but he is expected to be at full-strength in the SEC opener next weekend against Mississippi State. One member of the pitching staff Tanner is concerned about is Jay Brown, who has been a solid contributor for the Gamecocks thus far this season. Brown had an MRI done on his pitching elbow Friday that didn't find any specific problems, but Tanner is concerned enough about the injury that he is sending Brown to Birmingham this next week to see one of the country's best orthopedic specialists.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Harley Lail. The utility player that Tanner said he could use in the infield or the outfield this season made the most of his third career start with three doubles and three runs scored.

KEY MOMENT: The game was never in doubt after the Carolina bats put six runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. USC had stranded a large number of base runners in their previous three games, a two game sweep of Clemson and a close loss to the College of Charleston, but they made the most of their opportunities this night.

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