Gamecocks Avoid Sweep, Win Sunday Slugfest
The top of the first inning had the nation's most powerful team wielding their bats in what looked to be an onslaught. Phil Disher followed up Justin Smoak's two RBI double with a two run home run. Two batters later, Jon Willard went deep on a fly ball that rode a jet stream into the stands. By the end of the top of the first, Rebel pitcher Nathan Baker had thrown 40 pitches, given up two home runs and five runs.
Ole Miss answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the first inning. Leading off the second inning, light hitting Reese Havens crushed his third home run of the season that spelled the end of Baker's terrible afternoon.
Justin Cryer entered in relief, if that's what you want to call it. After striking out Harley Lail, he hit Travis Jones who was later thrown out trying to steal. James Darnell drew a walk before yet another Carolina long ball to Justin Smoak. With the Carolina lead closing in on "insurmountable," Ole Miss began their long ball display.
Will Atwood could not keep these red-hot Rebels down for long. An onslaught of Ole Miss hits amongst some home runs combined with Carolina bats suddenly falling silent had the Rebels within striking distance. Chasing Atwood out of the game in the third inning, Wynn Pelzer came in to throw 4.1 innings of valuable relief before handing off to Jeff Jeffords for the final two innings.
"Pelzer and Jeffords gave us some great work out of the bullpen," Gamecock head coach Ray Tanner said. "It was great to hang in there. Good ball clubs bend but they don't break. We were just hanging tough."
The Gamecocks added another run on Reese Havens second home run of the afternoon in the fourth – a feat he'd never accomplished. It would not be enough though as the Rebels had been hot all weekend.
His first multi-career home run game ever, Reese said, "We realized before the game that this was a big one. When you play in the SEC, every game is important and very competitive. We knew we had to get a win today and we went out and did it. We didn't play as well as we wanted this weekend but today it worked out for us."
In the bottom of the seventh inning and the score now 9-8 in favor of Carolina, Evan Button hit a pinch hit home run off Wynn Pelzer to tie it at nine apiece.
With the Ole Miss Rebels comeback complete, they looked primed to sweep the series. Carolina would not go so easily though a run in the eighth followed by another in the ninth had Carolina back on top 11-9 with three outs to go.
With Jeff Jeffords in line for the victory after getting out of the eighth inning, he came into the ninth dropping curves before lighting up the radar gun with fastballs. A strike out before inducing a foul ball to left field that Jon Willard ran down brought pinch hitter Alex Kliman to the plate. With the bus warming in the parking lot and the Gamecocks all but dieing to get out of Oxford, Jeffords made quick work of Kliman to salvage the series.
The five homers is a single game high for the Yardcocks this season. They lead the nation with 72 total home runs on the season.
Tanner, known for his love of the long ball added, "It was good to see the ball go out of the park. We typically win games when we hit home runs."
Needless to say, Justin Smoak and Reese Havens were the difference Sunday. Smoak extended his hit streak to 22 games, while Havens doubled his number of home runs on the season in one afternoon. Timely hits and key maneuvers by the Gamecocks and their coaching staff filled in the gaps.
The Gamecocks will play host to Davidson Tuesday evening at The Sarge. The 7:00 pm start will be welcomed by the Gamecocks who've been, and will continue to be, road warriors lately, before traveling to Doug Kingsmore Stadium for one more game with Clemson. The starting pitchers have not yet been named, but Mike Cisco and Blake Cooper figure to be on the mound.
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