Dyson Mows Down Charleston in 5-3 Win

South Carolina's Sam Dyson pitched seven strong innings on a night the Gamecocks learned they lost their closer for the season to lead USC to a 5-3 win over the College of Charleston in Columbia Wednesday night. Reese Havens hit a two run homer in the third and Kyle Enders grounded a two run single to center in the fifth to lead the offense.

Dyson, a (medical) red-shirt freshman made his second start memorable with 8 strikeouts – five looking - and limited the hard hitting Cougars to three hits. "I was throwing fastball and slider, hit spots, and that's what worked for me tonight," said Dyson.

Senior closer Curtis Johnson was declared out for the season earlier Wednesday after he discovered he tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder Tuesday night in the 4-2 loss to Furman. Johnson will apply for a medical red-shirt to return for the 2009 season.

Dyson shut down a Cougar lineup with all nine starters hitting over .300 on the season, particularly hitters 2 through 5, all with at least 8 homers and 34 RBI. The four went a combined 1-8 against Dyson with three walks. "I didn't really pay attention to the stats. I just threw whatever (USC pitching coach Mark) Calvi said," stated Dyson, who reflected that the last time he pitched this well and long was two years ago in high school.

"That's a very potent offense over there," said USC Head Coach Ray Tanner. "That's a dangerous offense. You look at the lineups before the game and they make us feel like a light hitting team," said Tanner. "They've got home runs and they've got quality players (in the lineup). That's a talented team."

"I felt good," said Dyson, who thought he had a good pitch count for his seven innings of work. He felt a little uncomfortable for a few moments after the game when a teammate christened his outstanding performance by shoving a large bag of baby powder in his face while addressing the media, but the right hander was as unfazed by that as he was by the Cougars potent offense.

"I was ecstatic," said Tanner of Dyson's performance. "I was hoping he would get us to the fourth or the fifth. I tried to take him out in the sixth because I think he had a 33 pitch inning. He was talking me out of it and I left him with Coach Calvi and said, ‘If he talks you out of it, then we'll send him back out,' and he had a pretty good seventh."

Coach Tanner called it a great mid-week college baseball game with the pitching match-up between Dyson and Charleston's Clay Caulfield, who gave up five runs on five hits and walked five batters – three of which scored for Carolina.

Lead off hitter Reese Havens started the scoring in the third. After designated hitter Phil Disher drew a walk and right fielder Harley Lail popped out, Havens crushed a home run over the center field fence for a 2-0 lead to grab the team lead in home runs with seven. "I really didn't think anything about that (team lead). I ran into one tonight, a fastball up. I really didn't think about that much," said Havens. "I saw it pretty good tonight and the pitchers threw a bunch of fastballs. I just tried to have good swings tonight." Havens also upped his team-leading RBI total to 32, and his team-leading hit total to 36 before an announced crowd of 5,047 on a beautiful night for baseball.

The College of Charleston cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth when DH Michael Kohn walked, advanced to second on a single by second baseman Brandon Sizemore, and both moved up on a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Mike Hentz . Center fielder Stuart Heywood singled them both home, but Carolina's only double play of the game, a grounder where Havens stepped on second and beat Catcher Austin Morgan on the throw to first, got USC out of the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, third baseman James Darnell rolled a seeing–eye single to left field, advanced to second on a passed ball, and watched first baseman Justin Smoak take first on a walk. Second baseman Andrew Crisp walked to load the bases and Enders hit a soft liner to center, similar to Haywood's two-run for the Cougars, for a single to score Darnell and Smoak. Coach Tanner, coaching third with Assistant Monty Todd out recruiting, gambled and sent the slow Smoak home. The throw was cut off and Crisp was caught trying to advance to third and tagged out in a run down.

In the third, Crisp, one of Carolina's best base runners and tied for the lead in steals with 4, was thrown out when he broke for second well before Caulfield threw the ball. Tanner had another chance to gamble in the fourth inning when the lumbering Disher walked and went from first to third on Harley Lail's double down the left field line into the corner, but Tanner halted the senior catcher and Havens flied out to end the threat.

The Cougars scored their third run in the sixth to make it a 5-3 game. Then, with one out, right fielder Gabe Marchant walked and scored one out later on left fielder Michael Harrington's opposite field double to left after Carolina left fielder Justin Hopper just missed making a diving catch on a foul ball 2 pitches before Harrington's RBI double. Dyson then walked Kohn, but struck out Sizemore looking for his eighth whiff of the game.

Dyson set Charleston down in order in the seventh. Craig Thomas gave up an infield hit in the eighth inning but stranded Joash Brodin at first, and Brandon Todd pitched a perfect ninth inning for his second save of the season to drop Charleston to 16-8 on the season and give USC a sweep of their two game series.

Thomas and Todd will likely fill the closer role now that Johnson is out. Tanner says Todd was already prepared to take some pressure off Johnson before the injury, and now Todd "is ready to go." But Dyson will need to be ready for SEC opponents on the weekend.

"Without speaking to Coach Calvi, I think we will probably flip (Dyson) to Tuesday next week and give him a start there, and have him available for the weekend. I think that an outing like that, you have to have him available on the weekend. If he can repeat a little bit next week what he did today, you gotta have him available in SEC play."

A healthy Dyson, a 19th round selection by the Washington Nationals out of Tampa Jesuit High School in 2006, gives USC a needed pitching presence to contrast to the precise pitching of ace Mike Cisco and Saturday starter Will Atwood. "(Dyson's) a rarity in college baseball where he can survive with his fastball, because he's in the low to mid 90's. He was at 94 a few times tonight and he's able to sneak a fastball by some people and get his slider going. He battled hard for us and gave us a chance to win," said Tanner. "He's certainly gonna figure in" the pitching rotation the rest of the season.

"He's a bulldog, he's a competitor, and he's a highly recruited young man. Outings like that will catapult him to I think certainly a better, bigger, role for us," said Tanner.

Carolina improved to 16-6 and hosts Kentucky in an SEC series beginning Friday night at Sarge Frye Field.

Notes:

- Andrew Crisp extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a single to center in the third inning to score Whit Merrifield for a 3-0 Gamecock lead.

- Dyson improved to 2-0 on the season.


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