USC Wins 11 Inning Drama at The Sarge 7-6

After two Saturday blowouts, Sunday was the perfect climax to the baseball weekend – a tightly contested, high drama game that went in to extra innings before it was decided between two Top 25 teams. In the chilly rubber match of the season opening series against East Carolina, the Gamecocks rallied late for a 7-6 win in 11 innings.

"I thought that it was a great college baseball game," South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. "We battled back, and they battled, and I'm happy for our guys to come back and win after not playing very well last night."

Starter Craig Thomas never really settled in for Carolina, giving up 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 strikeouts and 2 walks in 4-plus innings of work. The Pirates took an early 3-0 lead behind home runs from Corey Kemp and Ryan Wood. Kemp hit a two-run homer in the second inning, and Wood added a solo shot in the third. Harley Lail doubled home James Darnell to get the Gamecocks on the board in the bottom of the third. A leadoff triple in the fourth inning by Jamie Ray led to another Pirate run and a 4-1 lead, but Carolina's Whit Merrifield hit a two run blast in the bottom of the frame to keep the Gamecocks alive. After Thomas walked the first two batters in the fifth, Curtis Johnson came in from the bullpen and shut down East Carolina.

"I didn't want to put him in that spot, but I thought the game was on the line at that time," said Tanner. "We extended him a little bit more than maybe I would want to at this time of year, but he did a great job for us and gave us a chance."

Johnson pitched 6.2 innings, surpassing his previous long outing of 4.2 innings, and gave up 4 hits, 1 run, 5 strikeouts, and 3 walks. He started out with four consecutive scoreless innings, and the Carolina bats took advantage of their opportunity. Down 4-3 in the seventh inning, Darnell led off with a walk, and Justin Smoak followed him with a bomb to left center, giving the Gamecocks their first lead of the game, 5-4.

With t he game on the line in the ninth, East Carolina came through. Drew Schieber hit a double to start the inning. Harrison Eldridge moved him to third base on a sacrifice bunt, and then Ryan Wood hit a ground ball to second to bring Schieber home for the tying run. The Gamecocks failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, and the game went into extra innings.

The teams traded a scoreless tenth inning, but Schieber came through once again for the Pirates. He started the inning with a single, and East Carolina chased Johnson from the game. Sam Dyson came in to pitch, and gave up and RBI single to left field by Stephen Batts.

"I thought I went out there and threw strikes and competed," Johnson said. "I just tried to keep us in the game because I knew our offense is good enough and they were going to come through. Every inning, [coaches] kept asking how I felt, and I felt fine. I was pretty tired [in the eleventh inning]."

Now fighting for their lives, Carolina sent Darnell to the plate. Darnell singled, and Smoak drew a walk. Adam Crisp laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Lail was given and intentional pass to load the bases with one out. First year starter Kyle Enders came to the plate, and quickly fell behind with 2 strikes. After fouling off four pitches, the redshirt sophomore hammered a ball up the middle, scoring Darnell and Smoak to win the game.

"Coach just kept telling me to look back side, and I just kept pulling off and fouling away," Enders said. "So I said, I'm just going to sit back and just trust my hands. I got a changeup and hit it up the middle."


Smoak's seventh inning homer was the 41st of his career, putting him in a tie for seventh place on Carolina's all-time list.

Johnson and Dyson both saw their first action of the season for the Gamecocks.

For the weekend, the Gamecocks outscored the Pirates 35-24.

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