Special "Dish" on Mother's Day
Like Saturday evening's contest, the Tennessee Volunteers jumped on USC pitching early scoring three first inning runs, with errors by Justin Smoak and Steven Reinhold contributing to the Vols scoring. Unlike Saturday, the Gamecocks bats came back immediately. South Carolina leads the nation in home runs, but their five run second inning didn't include any long balls. Those came later.
"We've been a pretty good team on Sunday," USC head coach Ray Tanner said. "Sometimes you can't explain it, but Happy Mother's Day! I'm delighted we were able to win today."
Walks to Harley Lail and Steven Reinhold were followed up by a Reese Havens single through the right side. Lail would score and the Gamecocks had runners on the corners with red hot Travis Jones walking to the batter's box. A Jones strikeout had the Vols breathing a sigh of relief, leaving them just one out away from escaping potential disaster – until the heart of a nasty Gamecock batting order laid into starter Craig Cobb.
James Darnell and Justin Smoak both singled before Phil Disher would begin his Mother's Day rampage by ripping a three run double to right center. Trailing 5-3 going into the bottom of the second, the Volunteers would not lead again.
Cooper, like Honeycutt the night before, would settle down after a hectic first inning enough to let the Gamecocks build some breathing room. The breathing room was extended by one when James Darnell tied Justin Smoak for the team lead in home runs, his 17th of a fantastic sophomore campaign.
With Tennessee squeezing one across in the bottom of the fourth inning, things turned interesting again in the fifth. Andrew Crisp hit his sixth home run of the season in the top of the fifth, but Tennessee answered with two more in the bottom of the fifth. A pinch hit two run bomb off the bat of Shawn Griffin made the score 7-6 in favor of the Gamecocks.
Andrew Crisp singled again though in the top of the seventh to start a three run inning highlighted by Havens two run single. With the Gamecocks leading 10-6, Gamecock Head Coach Ray Tanner took the ball from Blake Cooper and handed it to the shaky hands of Wynn Pelzer. Cooper's afternoon was not his best effort on the season, but enough to garner the win making the freshman 7-1 on the season.
"I'm real proud of Blake Cooper," Tanner said. "He had some adversary early and gave up some hits but he hung in there and battled. He kept getting outs with runners on base. We were able to come back and score some runs."
Pelzer, suffering through an awful season, wouldn't make things easy. One of Tony Delmonico's three hits would come off Pelzer, a long home run to left field. He did get out of the inning though, his only one of the night.
The Gamecocks would squeeze another run across in the top of the eighth, highlighted by Andrew Crisp's fourth hit of the day before handing it to Curtis Johnson for the duration.
With the score 11-7 heading to the ninth, Phil Disher obviously hadn't had enough. After a Justin Smoak single, Disher walloped his 13th home run of the season to right field for two more insurance runs.
Johnson gave up two hits in the ninth but Tennessee could nothing more.
"We had to come out and play as hard as we can and try to get the win on Sunday. When you have a rubber game, you definitely don't want to lose the series," said Disher.
Talking about his base clearing double, Disher explained, "I saw a fastball away and managed to get a good piece of it. I was just trying not to make an out there and try to tie the game up, if I could."
The Gamecocks will be home for a three game set starting Thursday against Georgia in their final regular season series. After that it's off to Hoover, Alabama for the SEC tournament.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Though Andrew Crisp's four hit afternoon was spectacular, it was Disher who dished out the punishment. Going 2-for-4 with a run and five driven in, Disher was the difference maker this afternoon.
TURNING POINT: The top of the second inning proved huge for the Gamecocks confidence. Rather than "chip away" unsuccessfully like Saturday night, the Gamecocks scored five runs immediately, four of which came with two outs.
INTERESTING NUMBERS: The nation's most powerful team has now hit a home run in thirteen straight games.
In those same thirteen games, the Gamecocks have hit 31 long balls.
The Gamecocks are now 8-1 on Sunday afternoons. Scoring 13 more runs today, it marks the fifth straight Sunday the Gamecocks have scored double digits.
Harley Lail was the only hitless Gamecock on Sunday afternoon, but he still found a way to score two runs.
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