The South Rises Again

The Gamecocks evened the series with the Tarheels in the NCAA Super Regionals at one game apiece, sending the series to a third and decisive game on Sunday where the winner will advance to the College World Series in Omaha. Read inside about the dramatic game that took two days to complete and gave the Gamecocks new life.

As the sun set and the sky changed from light blue to black in Chapel Hill, so it seemed did the momentum of the series, as the garnet and black clad Carolina led the sky blue clad North Carolina team 8-5 at the seventh inning stretch. But then the sky filled with thunder and lightning, and the game was delayed until another blue sky day. North Carolina fans like to claim God is a Tarheel, "because He made the sky Carolina blue." But as Steve Spurrier says "God was smiling on the Gamecocks," and the South won 8-6.

For the second night in a row, North Carolina had rallied back from a 6-0 deficit. UNC pulled off a miracle comeback in game one of the series, winning 9-6, and were threatening again until' the game was called for weather. When the game resumed, UNC closed within another run in the 8th inning when USC pitcher Jeff Jeffords struggled mightily, but Jeffords was lights out in the 9th, and there were no miracles for the Tarheels in the second game.

Carolina pitching was "just enough" over the two day game, with Jeffords' tough 8th inning and superb 9th inning symbolizing the USC effort from the mound. Starting pitcher Arik Hempy also struggled, but he put Carolina in a position to win on Saturday. "Hempy battled hard for us out there," Tanner said. He had a couple of tough innings. He kept fighting through it and threw some good pitches. It certainly wasn't clean. But we're playing a great team and that's going to happen."

Hempy has been on a limited pitch count all season since coming back from Tommy John surgery, but he pitched steadily if not spectacularly for six and 2/3 innings and allowed only five hits and two earned runs, while pitching 116 pitches.

"I'm delighted," Tanner said. "Anytime a pitcher can get to that point (you're happy). He had a couple of short innings to get there. He competed hard. "If you had told me before the game started that I would get five (innings out of Hempy), I would have signed for it. It's hot out there and those jerseys get heavy."

Hempy got off to a 1-2-3 first inning, and then Travis Jones was walked to start the bottom of the first. Jones advanced to second on an infield pop up by James Darnell, and Justin Smoak sent him home to make it quickly 1-0. Smoak slid into second and immediately popped up and clapped his hands, excited to get USC off to a good start. Phil Disher also was walked, prompting an early trip to the mound by Fox to talk with his freshman pitcher Alex White. Whatever he said didn't work, because Trent Kline sent a 2-2 pitch sailing into left field for a standup RBI double, and USC was in business early. An early 2-0 lead meant nothing on Friday night in this park, so with runners on second and third, Carolina was hungry for more. Harley Lail made it to first on an error, scoring Smoak for the third run of the inning, and USC drew first blood 3-0.

Tim Federowicz and Josh Horton led off the second inning for UNC with a base hits. Seth Williams singled to left, scoring Federowicz, and UNC was on the board. The two out bug that hurt USC on Friday bit them again in the second inning, when James Darnell overthrew Travis Jones at second, sending a second UNC run home. Hempy struck out Reid Fronk to get out of the inning with USC hanging on to a slender 3-2 lead.

USC next scored when Justin Smoak smacked the first pitch of the bottom of the third inning just inside the foul pole in right field for his 22nd home run of the season and his fourth of the post-season, giving Carolina a 4-2 lead over their northern cousins.

Carolina broke the game open in the fourth inning when they scored four runs and chased starting pitcher White. Steven Reinhold scored Harley Lail on a sacrifice fly for the first run. Then Reese Havens who got to base on a walk scored on a single by James Darnell, and Justin Smoak was also walked. Phil Disher's double scored Smoak and Darnell and gave the Gamecocks an 8-2 lead.

North Carolina got one run back in the top of the fifth when Benji Johnson scored on a wild pitch and closed the score to 8-3.

Hempy was relieved in the seventh inning by Alex Farotto. Farotto promptly gave up two runs before closing out the inning, and the Heels had closed the margin to 8-5.

In the bottom half of the seventh the game was delayed due to threat of lightning. When the game resumed the next day, the Carolina faithful were all in their seats, but the homestanding Tarheels had half of their previous day's crowd missing, and the raucous Gamecock fans gladly made their presence felt, sounding every bit like the home crowd as they loudly cheered their Carolina to victory.

Jeffords' rough start was enough to give any Gamecock fan pause, but in the end, he gave them what they wanted - a victory. And they gave him and his team a rousing sendoff as they marched off the field to prepare for game 3.

The third game of the series will be telecast at 7 pm tonight on ESPN2. Mike Cisco will be the starting pitcher for Carolina.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories