Gamecocks Shut Out LSU 5-0 in SEC Opener

South Carolina welcomed new LSU coach Paul Mainieri to the SEC Friday night. It was a nail-biting introduction for six innings with an intense pitching battle, but the introduction turned down right rude when the host Gamecocks smacked the Tigers pitching staff for four runs in the bottom of the seventh, sending Mainieri and his team away losers by a final score of 5-0.

The win was the eighth straight victory for the Gamecocks over the once mighty Tigers, winners of five national championships. USC recorded their first SEC victory and their fourth shutout of the season, improving their overall record to 16-2. LSU is now 12-8 on the season, and 0-1 in the conference.

Harley Lail is making sure that, having obtained a position in the USC starting lineup, that he does everything possible to keep it. He opened up Friday night's game as Carolina's leadoff batter with a home run. His was the only run for either side for six innings. "He got us on the board early," USC Coach Ray Tanner said. "He's doing a nice job for us."

Defense was the name for most of this game, as South Carolina pitcher Harris Honeycutt and LSU pitcher Charlie Furbush warred for who would get the most strikeouts on the evening. Furbush won the battle with a career high 10 strikeouts to Honeycutt's nine, but Honeycutt won the war and the game. His nine strikeouts tied his season high. Honeycutt allowed only three hits and no runs while throwing 63 strikes. He has now pitched 21 consecutive scoreless innings.

Honeycutt remains perfect in his career at USC, notching his 13th career win and fifth of the season, After facing 25 batters and throwing 104 pitches, he still looked crisp on this cold night when he left after seven innings. His nine strikeouts in the game ties his season high, set against Eastern Michigan on February 23.

Talking about his star pitcher, Tanner said, "He's pitching very well. He's very comfortable right now. He made some big pitches when he needed to."

LSU starter Furbush transferred from a Division III school, Saint Joseph's of Maine, his native state. He looked like anything but a Division III pitcher Friday night, settling down after Lail's opening homer to keep the Gamecocks scoreless after that until the decisive seventh inning.

Furbush was the #1 lefty in the prestigious Cape Cod League this last summer, throwing one of only two no-hitters in the league that summer. He is a Baseball America Third-Team pre-season All-American, and is a member of the Roger Clemens Award watch list, an award given to the nation's top hurler.

Tanner said. "On their side, Furbush was really good. It was a pitchers' duel. We were fortunate to score some runs late. Furbush is highly-touted and going to be a pretty good draft pick. He showed you why."

Honeycutt was on auto-pilot until the fifth inning, when he gave up walks to consecutive batters.

"I got myself into some trouble," Honeycutt said. "But I just tried to hit my spots. (USC Pitching Coach) Calvi called some great pitches." "There's no question he had to make some big pitches in that situation," Tanner said. "He got right back at it and came up big for us." After a visit to the mound by Tanner, Honeycutt struck out the next two hitters, Ryan Schimpf and Michael Hollander, to end the threat.

In the seventh inning the wheels finally started coming off for LSU, when USC plated 4 runs in the inning. Andrew Crisp walked, and then was replaced by Steven Reinhold as a pitch runner. Travis Jones then hit a perfect bunt that the pitcher missed and rolled through the gap, putting runners safely on first and second. Reinhold then scored on Reese Havens' sacrifice bunt when first baseman Jordan Mayer was charged with an error when he failed to come up with the throw. Lail came up to bat again, and Jones scored the second run of the inning on the fielder's choice. After Havens was forced out at second, catcher Trent Kline hit one off the center field wall to drive home the third run of the inning. After an intentional walk of hot hitting Justin Smoak, LSU pulled Furbush with new pitcher Paul Bertuccini. Lonnie Chisenhall's triple sent Kline home for the fourth and last run of the inning.

USC assistant coach provided some comedy relief for the crowd during that crucial seventh inning. He slipped and fell on the wet grass while trying to determine whether to wave a base runner home. He said with a smile that "I got so excited finally getting someone over to third I guess I slipped."

In the top of the eighth inning, Curtis Johnson came in to relieve Honeycutt. Johnson continued USC's pitching dominance on the night, closing out the game by allowing no hits, no runs, only one walk and striking out four. The combined 13 strikeouts was a new season high, eclipsing the previous season high of 12 Ks against The Citadel and the College of Charleston.

Ray Tanner told a story on his radio show this week of when he was an assistant coach on the Olympic team under then LSU baseball coach Skip Bertman. When he told Bertman that he was going to be the next coach at South Carolina, Bertman told him, "Good. I'll schedule you for homecoming." Tanner turned the tables on LSU with Friday's home opener victory.

The two teams will meet again Saturday at 4 pm. The unusual start time is due to special ceremonies that will be held at the Sarge honoring players from all USC's College World Series teams.

Player of the game: Harris Honeycutt

Key Moment: The four runs in the 7th inning that broke up a close 1-0 battle at that point.

Notes: Pitcher Jay Brown did not go to Birmingham to see the nation's top sports surgeon because the doctor was only going to be in town for one day. Coach Tanner explained after the game that they wanted him in town for back-to-back days, because if he found anything serious while he was examining Brown's pitching arm, they would want him to do surgery while he was down there, on the second day.

There were 3101 fans in attendance.

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