USC Celebrates Homecoming with 9-1 Win

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home." USC was clearly glad to be home at Sarge Frye Field on Friday night, as Justin Smoak smacked a pair of home runs and Reese Havens drove in three runs with two hits, and the Gamecocks beat Wofford 9-1 in the second game of the 2007 NCAA Columbia Baseball Regional.


South Carolina Head Coach Ray Tanner was worried about the game with Wofford. He said after the game that "This was one of the longest days of my coaching career; Wofford had been on such a roll lately." He needn't have worried, as his team dominated in every facet of the game, with the USC pitching staff limiting the potent Terrier offense to just five hits, while belting out twelve hits and nine runs of their own. USC is 36-2 this season when they out-hit their opponents.

USC shortstop Reese Havens wasn't worried. He said, "Anything can happen in the post season. The dream is to go on to Omaha. The team was ready to go. We just focused on tonight and taking care of business, and we did that."

Wofford Coach Steve Traylor said, "South Carolina was outstanding in every phase of the game. They had very, very good pitching tonight. Honeycutt pitched very well, and their bullpen was lights out. We have to give them all the credit; we didn't have anything for them."

USC has outscored Wofford 30-2 in three games this season. Those numbers are worth noting, considering that Wofford and USC came into the regional as the #1 and #2 home run hitting teams in America, with the Terriers leading the Gamecocks by two on the season, 106 to 104. USC made them both up on Wofford with two guided missiles off the end of Justin Smoak's bat and deep over the right field fence, his 19th and 20th home runs of the year. He re-took the team lead in homers, coming into the game tied at 18 with Travis Jones and James Darnell. Smoak passed Derick Urquhart in the USC record book for tenth all-time, with 37 home runs thus far in his two year career.

Smoak talked about his two home runs that were key in the game: "The first one was a fastball; the second one was a slider." When asked if he was glad to break out of his recent hitting slump, he said, "Finally! It's great to be back home at The Sarge and in front of our fans." Smoak hit some balls hard in the SEC tournament that would have been home runs in most SEC parks, but were just long outs in Hoover's extra deep outfield. Havens said with a grin of Smoak's hits Friday, "Everyone expects Smoak to hit anyway, so it wasn't a big surprise."

Tanner said, " There were a couple factors: one was when Justin answered in the first inning when he tied it up instead of us trailing for two or three innings; and two, our pitching staff held them to five hits. They are a very good offensive team. It was a great first game for us."



Caption: Justin Smoak celebrates with his teammates after hitting his second home run of the night.


USC starting pitcher Harris Honeycutt began the season with seven straight wins, but followed them with five straight losses. He got his eighth win of the year Friday night, allowing five hits but only one run, and striking out seven while pitching seven complete innings. He went over 100 strikeouts for the season Friday, his total now at 104 and counting.

Wofford has one of the best hitters in America in Brandon Waring. Honeycutt struck out the dangerous Waring, looking with a strike on the outside corner, to end the Terrier half of the fifth inning. Tanner said of Waring, "(We) got him out a couple of times and walked him a couple of times. We tried to treat him like Matt LaPorta from Florida: we tried to pitch anywhere but in the middle of the plate. He's a tremendous hitter. He was something like 18 for 36 (recently). We pitched him very carefully. Waring did not have a hit in the game.

Havens was matter of fact about his key performance tonight. When asked about his timely hit early in the game that gave USC the lead, he said," Anytime you hit a clutch hit in a key situation, it gets the team going."

Smoak provided some post-game humor in the press room. In the third inning, Wofford starting pitcher Ben Austin issued three straight walks, including Smoak. When asked if he minded being walked, he said, "I enjoy getting on base. I think I'm a good base runner." Tanner was sitting next to Smoak at the press table, and was shaking his head vigorously "no" to Smoak's claim. In the third inning after being walked, Smoak headed home from third base after Jon Willard blooped a single in front of the Wofford left fielder. Trent Kline, who was on second base, had to slow down as he approached the plate on Willard's hit so as to not pass Smoak running home.

USC is now 43-18 overall and advances to take on Charlotte in the winner's bracket game at 7:00 on Saturday. The Terriers, who fell to 30-32, play N.C. State in an elimination contest at 2:00. The 49ers knocked off the Wolfpack 6-3 in the regional opener. Official attendance for the game was 4821.

Tanner spoke briefly about Charlotte, whom USC will face on Saturday. "I was very impressed; they are a very good club. They won their 48th game today, and that's very impressive."

Tanner has never lost a first round NCAA game at South Carolina. In 2006, they defeated Evansville 4-2. In 2005, they defeated Michigan 6-5. In 2004, they beat The Citadel 12-4. In 2003, their first victim on the way to the College World Series was East Carolina, whom they beat 4-0. In 2002, they opened with Virginia Commonwealth, who they beat 6-3. In 2001, they thrashed The Citadel 16-0. In 2000, they beat Liberty 6-4. And in 1998 in Tanner's first NCAA win at USC, they started the trend with a bang, whipping Florida International 21-9. Tanner modestly said, "We've had some great performances, great crowds. We play well at home. I hope that's a trend that continues in years to come."

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Justin Smoak is an easy pick with his two home runs, but Reese Havens matched his 3 RBI performance on the night, and his clutch hits cannot be overlooked. It's a tie.

KEY MOMENT: With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the second and two out, Havens doubled home two runs to give USC a 3-1 lead. They never trailed again.

HOW THE RUNS SCORED:

WOFFORD 1st – Gilmartin walked, Eaves sacrificed (3-4), Kirkley struck out, Waring walked, Brandt singled to right and advanced to second on throwing error (E9)(RBI), Wood popped to first ONE RUN.

USC 1st – Jones struck out, Darnell flied to right, Smoak homered to right (RBI), Disher struck out. ONE RUN.

USC 2nd – Kline singled, Crisp sacrificed (5-3), Willard lined to left, Reinhold walked, Havens doubled to right (2 RBI), Jones grounded to second. TWO RUNS.

USC 3rd – Darnell walked, Smoak walked, Disher struck out, Kline walked, Crisp singled to left (RBI), Willard singled to left (2 RBI), Reinhold reached in fielder's choice (4-6), Havens flied to center. 3 RUNS.

USC 7th – Crisp flied to left, Willard reached in fielding error (E6), Reinhold grounded to short, Havens singled to left (RBI), Havens caught stealing (2-4). ONE RUN.

USC 8th – Jones grounded to shortstop, Darnell singled, Smoak homered to right (2 RBI), Martin (PH) singled to left, Kline walked, and Crisp grounded into a double play (6-4-3). TWO RUNS.

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