USC Leaves The Sarge Feeling SUPER

In their last inning at bat ever at Sarge Frye Field, leading by the slimmest of margins over Charlotte, USC made it clear that they were going to leave their old home as winners in their last game there. Charlotte stubbornly refused go away, but the Gamecocks plated four runs in the bottom of the eighth to go up 11-6 on the 49ers and removed any doubt - USC was going Super next weekend.

An emotional Ray Tanner said after the game, "The only thing I had on my mind was winning that last game at The Sarge. That was really special."

A visibly tired Charlotte coach was again a gentleman after his team's second loss to USC, praising in the highest terms the team that vanquished his. Loren Hibb said, "They have earned the right to play as a number one seed. They have a great fan base, a great place to play, and great players that are well coached. They really have a chance to compete for a national championship."

The game started late due to a rain delay, and then was delayed two hours and 56 minutes more in the bottom of the third inning. A game that was scheduled to start at four pm was only in the third inning at 8:13 this night. Charlotte's Cory Lane discussed the impact of the delay on his team and resulting fatigue factor: "Everybody on the team was exhausted. We were out playing until twelve last night after playing two games yesterday. Then today playing three innings and then sitting around for a rain delay wears on your body."

It seemed early on that Charlotte had South Carolina right where they wanted them - leading in the first of two games they needed to win in order to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals, and a rain delay that would push the second game to another day, which would allow them to bring back their ace pitcher Adam Mills in a second game.

Mike Cisco started the game for USC as pitcher, but after the long layoff, Tanner said he wasn't going to bring Cisco back out. When the game restarted, USC quickly scored two, but Charlotte piled on three more runs their first time up after the delay to lead 5-2. Alex Burt opened the inning with a double and scored to tie the game at 2 apiece, when Cory Lane followed with a triple to right center. Alex Farotto, who had been very solid in his recent outings, was the USC starting pitcher after the long rain delay, but this was not his night, as he was responsible for the Charlotte runs in the fourth.

Tanner then brought in Curtis Johnson, affectionately known as "Cujo", and he performed well enough to be named as one of the pitchers on the All Regional Team, pitching 4 2/3 innings in relief to record his first win of the season.

Things were looking bleak for the home team, and while Carolina loaded the bases, Phil Disher was up to bat. Disher, who had had a dismal weekend up to that point, was mired deep in a funk. In the weekend's previous games, his every swing seemed to be striving for a home run, but was greeted with nothing but a swishing sound and an empty strikeout. But on Monday, not only did Disher pull himself out of that funk, but he got every bit of the ball as he sent a grand slam DEEP over the center field fence, to give USC the lead 6-5. Hibbs said after the game it had to be 450 feet. Justin Smoak, voted the most valuable player of the regional, had hit a towering deep homer himself the previous day, but when asked who really hit the longest ball of the weekend, he grinned and said, "I'll have to give it to Disher."

Tanner said, "Phil Disher's big blast got us back in the game and Curtis Johnson had a great performance. It was his first win of the year in 29 appearances. He's been a workhorse for us all year and has pitched in some critical innings. It was a hard fought win and I'm very proud of our guys on getting through a very tough Regional."

The two teams scored only one more run between them until the eighth inning, with Carolina leading 7-5 at that point. Charlotte closed within 7-6, when USC put out the lights for good in the bottom of the eighth. After Andrew Crisp had a sacrifice fly to center to score one run, and Reese Havens added a run-scoring infield hit, Travis Jones capped USC's four-run frame with a two-out, two-run single to left field for the final margin.

First baseman Justin Smoak, when asked about the confidence of the team, said, "Our confidence is definitely up right now. After the SEC Tournament, we came back and practiced hard. Our pitchers have kept us in ball games. The offense came up big this weekend."

South Carolina improved to 45-18 overall and will play at North Carolina in a best-of-three Super Regional next weekend. Charlotte ends its seasons with a 49-12 record. The Gamecocks, who went 3-0, claimed their seventh Regional title since the Super Regional format debuted in 1999. They are one of only two teams in the nation to appear in seven of the last eight Super Regionals, along with Miami. "I'm delighted to be among that group," Tanner said, "but it's really not something I think about. I think about the moment. I don't think about the past or the future too much. I've been fortunate to coach a lot of great players here. There is a great atmosphere for college baseball here. It's all part of having a great program."

South Carolina has been kryptonite to North Carolina all three time when the two teams have met this century in the post season, winning one Super Regional and two Regionals over the Tarheels. All three series wins were in Columbia, and the Gamecocks are headed to Chapel Hill this time, hoping to turn the sky blue clad Tarheels green one more time on their way back to Omaha.

NCAA Columbia Regional All-Tournament Team

Catcher - Trent Kline, South Carolina

First Baseman - Justin Smoak, South Carolina

Second Baseman - Cory Lane, Charlotte

Shortstop - Ramon Corona, North Carolina State

Third Baseman - James Darnell, South Carolina

DH - Phil Disher, South Carolina

Outfield - Andrew Crisp, South Carolina

Outfield - Spencer Steedley, Charlotte

Outfield - Jeremy Synan, North Carolina State

Pitcher - Adam Mills, Charlotte

Pitcher - Curtis Johnson, South Carolina

Most Outstanding Player - Justin Smoak, South Carolina

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