Rivalry Game One: All Carolina, 10-1

Much was made of one of the biggest rivalries in college baseball starting only five games into the season, and 13th ranked Clemson seemed to pose a formidable test for the Gamecocks. No worries this day. USC played solid baseball across the board, with big hits, timely hits, tenacious defense, and an impressive outing by pitcher Mike Cisco, all culminating in a 10-1 rout of the visiting Tigers.

South Carolina blew out East Carolina in game one of last weekend's series, only to fall themselves in the second game of the series, so they don't take anything for granted. Their game one performance this weekend was also a blowout, this time over their arch-rivals Clemson, and on this day Carolina could do no wrong and the Tigers could do very little right.

While Carolina was getting solid hitting and some amazing defensive plays on the day, Clemson's day was filled with errors, wild pitches, infield collisions and an inability to get anything going offensively against the Gamecock pitchers.

Reese Havens was the offensive hero of the day, hitting his first career grand slam in the second inning and matched his career high by driving in five runs. He has a .526 batting average thus far this season. He said of the win, "This is a big series and every game is big for us. We're excited about winning the first (game) but we've got to regroup and get after it again tomorrow."

Havens has been the Gamecock's hottest offensive player so far this season, and now has four homers and 14 RBI in just the first five games of the season. He stepped to the plate with two out and sent the first pitch from Clemson starter Ryan Hinson deep over the fence, just right of the scoreboard. "I was just looking for a pitch to work with early," Havens said. "One thing about Ryan, he's not scared to come after you. He throws a bunch of strikes. He came at me early and I was lucky to run into one. I didn't see where it landed, but it felt good coming off the bat."

USC head coach Ray Tanner said, "I thought we were able to win today because of pitching and defense. It was certainly good to see Reese hit the ball out of the park there with the runners on, but pitching and defense carried us for the majority of the game."

The defensive gem of the day was a diving catch by left fielder and true freshman Justin Hopper that kept at least two Clemson scores from crossing the plate in the third. Clemson had loaded the bases, and Jeff Schaus hit the ball into left-center in what appeared to be a solid hit. Hopper raced towards the ball and dived, his body fully extended and his glove outstretched, as the crowd held their collective breath. He intercepted the ball and broke the hearts of the Clemson fans in attendance, while the home standing Gamecock crowd exploded into a grateful cacophony. "It was real big," starting pitcher Mike Cisco said. "I'm a firm believer that one or two little plays like that are big plays. They can change the game."

As good as Havens was at the plate and he, Hopper and the rest of the defense were in the field, "the man" from start to finish this day was Cisco. In seven plus innings, the right-handed pitcher allowed only one run on eight hits with four strikeouts and one walk before he was replaced in the eighth by lefthander Will Atwood.

"Cisco pitched well. You have to give him credit. He kept us off-balance all day long," Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. "We couldn't piece together that big hit with men on base. We also didn't play great defense. Every time we gave them an extra out, they took advantage of it. That's what good teams do."

"I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes," Cisco said. "I got after them early. I knew all I had to do was my job, and with the defense behind me, the hitting would come through. Even when you have a big lead, you have to pitch like it's a 1-0 game and stay focused. You can't relax out there and let them get back into the game."

Tanner said of his starter, "He was able to go in there and make some good pitches. We need him to figure in to what we're going to do this year. Give him one more quality outing, and we'll call him 100-percent."

It was a beautiful day for baseball, with a sunny sky and temperatures in the low 70s. An overflow crowd of 5,921 fans came out for the next to last Carolina-Clemson rivalry game ever at Sarge Frye Field. The garnet-clad attendees left happy with a start on their tans and a warm feeling in their hearts, as they watched USC improve to 4-1 on the season. Clemson suffered its first defeat in six outings. The two teams will play again Sunday at 2 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson.

USC started the scoring in the first inning after Whit Merrifield hit a triple and James Darnell sent him home on a ground out RBI. Clemson set the stage for the grand slam in the second with a couple of miscues sandwiching a single: Harley Lail reached base on a throwing error by Clemson third baseman Kyle Parker.

After Kyle Enders singled, Scott Wingo was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Havens to send his rocket into the sky.

USC added two runs in the sixth on a sac fly by Enders and a run-scoring single by Hopper, and then added two more runs in the seventh when Justin Smoak ripped a single up the middle to score Havens from second, followed by James Darnell scoring on a fielder's choice. Carolina scored their 10th run of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning when Hopper doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Havens.

Clemson tried gamely to get on the board on a number of occasions, only to have the Carolina D step up and thwart their efforts. The leadoff hitter for the Tigers reached on a single in the fifth, but Scott Wingo scooped up a hot grounder and stepped on second base before firing to first for a crowd-pleasing twin-killing. Clemson got a runner to third with two outs in the top of the sixth, but Cisco fanned freshman Chris Epps for the final out of the inning.

Cisco held Clemson scoreless until they finally plated a run in the top of the seventh, when the only walk Cisco allowed all day was sent home by a double into left field.

The crowd was as loud and enthusiastic as any coach could ask for this day. "You always want to win, but we especially want to win in front of our fans," Tanner said. "They've been great to us. They've helped make this program what it is. To be able to win at home was a great thing. I was proud of the way our guys played.

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