Rivalry Game 2: USC Gives Tanner Win # 900

The guys wearing the black hats are always the bad guys in the old westerns, and the boisterous Clemson home crowd certainly treated the Ray Tanner and his players in their black hats that way Sunday. Unlike in the movies, the orange clad townsfolk left with their heads hanging down, as the Gamecocks gave their coach his landmark 900th win, 5-1 over the Tigers.

Ray Tanner got his 900th career win as a head coach on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Clemson, SC, his 505th at South Carolina, but true to form, played it down. "I'm just proud I'm able to coach in a great game – college baseball. Especially in the era we are enjoying right now. I didn't win any games. I've lost a lot, players win games. I'm just proud to be a coach."

Tanner is pleased with his team thus far. "We've played five out of six games against Top 25 people. Two here, three against East Carolina, that's tough. We've made some mistakes, but we're playing hard. I'm proud of our guys being able to win. We've had some close ones we could have lost, but we managed to win."

Justin Smoak talked about the job the USC coaching staff is doing. "They're doing a great job," he said. "The big thing with coaches is to keep us in games, and they've done that so far."

Blake Cooper started for South Carolina on the mound, and he and reliever Curtis "Cujo" Johnson held the Clemson Tigers to one run for the second day in a row. Cooper did not allow an earned run in his six innings of work.

Cooper talked about being part of this great rivalry as a South Carolina native. "I grew up wanting this," he said. "This is my dream, to pitch Carolina against Clemson. I got the chance, and hopefully I did a good job."

Asked about the significance of Carolina winning five of the last six games against Clemson and how it will affect their goals for the season, Cooper said, "We're ready to get back to the College World Series. We're practicing hard, the pitching staff is looking great, defense; everything is looking good right now."

Johnson worked the final three innings and allowed just two hits while striking out four to pick up his first save of the year. DJ Mitchell has been successful most of his career when facing the Gamecocks, but he took the loss, allowing two runs on ten hits and three walks.

Tanner said of his pitchers, "Cooper and Johnson pitched their hearts out for us and kept us in the game today, Clemson had some good scoring opportunities. To come on the road and get a pitching performance like that is impressive. I was proud of our guys."

Meantime, the Carolina bats continued to be hot enough to beat a good team. Justin Smoak hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot in the top of the ninth; and the Gamecocks also got RBIs by Reese Havens, Harley Lail, Kyle Enders, and Scott Wingo.

The game was scoreless through the first five innings. In the sixth inning with Enders and Justin Hopper on board, Wingo sent a double through the gap in right center to score Enders. Then Havens sent Hopper home on an RBI single.

The lone Clemson score could not be held against the pitching staff. The Tigers' Kyle Parker hit a ground ball James Darnell's way, and he threw wide of first base, allowing Clemson base runner Ben Paulsen to score all the way from first base.

The beautiful day was almost marred when Clemson pitcher Matt Vaughn hit Andrew Crisp after Smoak' homer. Seven Clemson players jumped the fence in front of their dugout, but were quickly ushered back in and the trouble was averted. Tanner was unmoved by the incident. "I know Crisp got hit after the home run but that's just part of the game. I didn't think there was any big deal."

Havens, Smoak and Enders have hit safely in all six Gamecock games this year. Wilson Boyd had three hits and Alex Lee added two for the Tigers at the plate. The Gamecocks are 5-1, the Tigers are 5-2.

The Gamecocks return home for their next game on Tuesday against Gardner Webb, with the first pitch set for 7 pm at Sarge Frye Field.

Note The game time for Wednesday's game between South Carolina and Charlotte has been moved to 4 pm. It was originally slated for 7 pm and was changed to accommodate fans planning to attend Wednesday night's men's basketball game between South Carolina and Kentucky.

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