Gamecocks bounce back, down Yale 11-5

With SEC play quickly approaching, Tuesday's lackluster 5-3 loss to Yale was probably not what the Gamecocks had in mind. USC got back on the winning track on Wednesday night though, defeating Yale 11-5 in the final game before SEC play begins Friday at Vanderbilt.

The Gamecocks' Wednesday night game with the Yale Bulldogs began much like Tuesday's ended. Despite a first-inning run, the USC bats remained relatively quiet for the first four innings of the contest as Yale pitchers combined to allow just four hits through those innings.

However, a four-run fifth and five-run sixth were enough to push the Gamecocks past Yale 11-5 in front of 2,086 fans at Sarge Frye Field.

Freshman pitcher Sam Dyson made his first career collegiate start, but despite a smooth start in the first, was plagued by walks for the remainder of his three-inning outing. After Yale DH Chris Sweeney led off the fourth with a single, USC head coach Ray Tanner elected to pull Dyson in favor of senior Sean Wideberg.

Wideberg (1-0) responded pitching four scoreless innings while striking out a career-high eight batters on his way to earning his first career win.

"This game is hard to get if Wideberg doesn't do what he did. We did score some runs in the middle innings, but he had a quality outing for us. We've been kind of waiting to see that," Tanner said. "That made the difference in the game. He was able to shut them down and we were scoring."

USC got a lot of its offense from a previously-struggling James Darnell. The junior third baseman, who entered the game batting just .216 with no home runs on the season, kick-started his 2008 campaign with a 2-for-4, five-RBI day. Four of those RBI came on a sixth-inning, two-out Grand Slam that put the Gamecocks up 10-2. The grand slam was the first of Darnell's Gamecock career and the five RBI were the most of his career.

"I was impressed in the two games we played Yale with their offense and their pitching. Just all around they seemed like a pretty good team, and we had to go out there and battle and compete," Darnell said. "My home run and a couple of things we did just really got things going."

USC also got a boost from freshman second basemen Scott Wingo, whose solo home run led off the fifth inning and jump-started the Gamecocks' two-inning scoring onslaught. Wingo went 1-for-2 with two RBI.

"(With) Wingo swinging the bat normally you expect a double the opposite way or something, but to see that just fired everybody up," Darnell said. "Wingo's great. He's one of my favorite players on the team just because he gets after it everyday. He's a great freshman."

Harley Lail and Kyle Enders also had two hits respectively for the Yardcocks. Yale starting pitcher Chris Finneran (0-2) lasted just two innings as USC faced nine different Yale pitchers on the night. Chris Walsh got the loss for the Bulldogs despite pitching just 0.1 innings.

After being held to a season low five hits just one night ago, the Gamecocks wasted no time getting on the board on Wednesday. After a Whit Merrifield walk, Justin Smoak lined a double down the right field line scoring Merrifield for the Gamecocks' first tally of the game. Enders followed by singling to left, giving USC runners at the corners with one out. However, the Gamecocks were stopped cold, as Finneran got Darnell to pop up to first and DeAngelo Mack to ground out to second to avoid further damage.

The Bulldogs wasted no time answering with a run of their own in the top of the second. A Jake Doyle lead off walk set the table for first baseman Trygg Larsson-Danforth to double and tie the game.

Yale was still in business with a runner on third and just one out, but a suicide squeeze attempt was blown up when Chris Sweeney missed the bunt giving Enders an easy tag for the out. Sweeney tried to make up for the missed bunt, slicing a double down the right field line. But a beautiful backhand in the hole and throw to first by Wingo on the next batter got Davis Stanley to end the inning.

After a 1-2-3 inning in the USC second, Yale again scored in the third to go up 2-1. Again a walk to lead off the inning got things started for the Bulldogs and a bunt attempt that Enders threw into right field gave Yale runners on first and third with nobody out. A long fly ball by Ryan Lavarnway to the deepest part of the ballpark scored P.J. Gorynski on the tag up. Dyson then walked the bases loaded but struck out Andy Megee looking to end the inning.

After going six up and six down in the third and fourth innings combined, Darnell ended the streak, lining the first pitch of the Gamecock half of the inning up the middle into centerfield. A Lail fielder's choice and Mack strike out seemed to put Yale back into a groove with two outs and a runner on first. However, the Gamecocks were able to manufacture a run as Lail stole second and Drew Crisp hit a soft liner into center to score Lail and tie the game at two.

The Gamecocks got the bottom of the fifth started off in a big way when Wingo turned on a Joe Castaldi pitch and blasted it, just fair, over the right field wall to give the Gamecocks their first lead since the second inning. Reese Havens followed that with a screaming liner to center, but was gunned down at second trying to steal. Two walks and an Enders single loaded the bases for Darnell as Yale made their fourth pitching change of the evening. New pitcher John Henry Davis walked Darnell, scoring Merrifield and giving USC a 4-2 lead. A Lail sacrifice fly to right and Mack RBI-single pushed the lead to 6-2.

USC extended its lead in the sixth. Wingo led off the inning with a walk, but was quickly thrown out stealing. Two walks and an error on a Merrifield sacrifice bunt loaded the bases for Enders. Davis avoided disaster getting Enders to pop up to the second baseman, but the senior pitcher was just delaying the inevitable. One batter later the struggling Darnell busted out of his season-long slump, crushing a grand slam over the left-center wall extending the USC lead to eight runs. A Lail single, Phil Disher hit by pitch, and a throwing error by Yale shortstop Gant Elmore loaded the bases again. Wingo got hit by pitch which scored Lail, USC's eleventh and last run of the game. Lightning nearly struck twice in the same inning as a Havens towering shot landed in the glove of center fielder Josh Cox, just short of the left-center wall.

Freshman pitcher Will Casey came on to pitch the eighth and ninth and finished off the Bulldogs despite giving up three runs.

USC will now turn its attention to conference play as the Gamecocks start off SEC ball with a three-game series at Vanderbilt this weekend.

Tanner is happy with the way his squad has started off the season.

"We just finished this six game home-stand, and we won five of them. We're 10-3 on the year, played a pretty good schedule, and I think we're prepared to go to Vandy. We've got to play well. We know we're playing one of the better teams in the country and can't make any mistakes. But I feel like we've made an investment to get ready to play, and we've been challenged in a lot of different ways and now you've got to go play well."

Junior pitcher Mike Cisco (3-0, 2.79 ERA) will face Vanderbilt ace Mike Minor (2-1, 1.66 ERA) Friday night in Nashville at 6 pm.

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