Yardcocks Win Dramatic Comeback at The Joe

The South Carolina baseball team traveled the 100-plus miles down I-26 to beautiful Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park for a clash with The Citadel Bulldogs Tuesday night. The Bulldogs did not go down without a fight, as it took some late-inning magic for the Gamecocks to leave Charleston with a 7-4 weekday victory.

With all the momentum going The Citadel's way and the Gamecocks facing a 2-4 deficit going into the top of the eighth it looked as if South Carolina was about to add another weekday defeat to their record.

Pinch-hitting for Adam Crisp, DeAngelo Mack got the eighth-inning started by working pitcher Raymond Copenhaver to the brink and battling through an 11-pitch at-bat. In the end it was Mack who won out, earning a well-deserved walk to start the inning.

"At that point the tying run is in the on-deck circle. He goes up there and battles his rear-end off to take a walk there. A very competitive at-bat, one of the best at-bats I've seen all year," USC head coach Ray Tanner said.

Noticeably shaken, Copenhaver (1-2) then walked Reese Havens on just four pitches—a sharp contrast to the previous Mack at-bat. After the usually-reliable Whit Merrifield failed to put down the bunt on three attempts, James Darnell did what he has so many times before and delivered, turning on a pitch and bouncing it over third base for a double, scoring Mack and cutting the lead to one.

With first base open, Bulldog head coach Fred Jordan elected to intentionally walk Charleston-area native Justin Smoak to face Phil Disher, who had just moved back into the No. 5 hole tonight. A wild pitch scored Havens tying the game, before Disher lofted a soft single into right field over the first baseman's head, good enough for two RBI and a 6-4 lead.

"(The pitch) got in on me a little bit, but I was fortunate enough to loop it in there so we could score some runs," Darnell said after the game. "It was a big win for us, a come-from-behind win. We fought hard. Our pitchers did a good job to keep us in the game. We just managed to pull out a victory."

The Gamecocks added an insurance run in the ninth, and when the smoke cleared USC escaped with the 7-4 victory raising their record to 19-7 while dropping the Bulldogs to 16-11 on the season.

"It was great to see my guys compete after getting down 4-2. Nick Godwin had a quality start. Of course The Citadel is not going to go away and they rallied and took the lead. And then we fought back and had a few things go our way," Tanner said. "I'm proud of my guys for competing in a situation where it got away from us in the seventh inning."

That two-run lead would be all reliever Parker Bangs needed as the freshman righty cruised through the eighth and ninth innings picking up the second win of his career.

Bangs got some help from his defense in the eighth. After Matt Reifsnider singled to start the inning, Havens and Smoak turned a picture-perfect double play on a liner to shortstop and throw to first that Smoak leaped to grab and tagged out the runner.

Weekday starter Nick Godwin (3-2) had another solid outing for the Gamecocks, pitching six innings, giving up just two runs on five hits while striking out seven. At one point the senior righty was nearly dominant. With a 2-0 lead and two outs in the sixth, an in-field hit opened the flood gates for the Bulldogs. A double, hit-by-pitch, and second double later and just like that, the game was tied, giving The Citadel new life.

The Bulldogs did not take that new life for granted as they struck quickly and confidently in the seventh. Freshman Sam Dyson came on in relief of Godwin and the Bulldogs welcomed him to the game with a lead-off single. After a sacrifice bunt, and wild pitch, a Brad Felder RBI-single put The Citadel up 3-2. Craig Thomas came onto pitch and the Bulldogs treated him just as badly, pushing the score to 4-2.

Bangs came on to close out the inning and with the help of the Gamecocks' eighth-inning heroics finished off The Citadel.

James Darnell, fresh off being named National Player of the Week last week, continued his hot hitting going 4-for-5 with two doubles and three RBI. After starting off the season slow, Darnell is now hitting .364 on the season with eight home runs and 37 RBI. The junior third baseman's two-double effort was amazingly the first of his career.

The Gamecocks got on board early in the first. After a Havens strike out, Merrifield lined a single in to right field. Just like that the Gamecocks were up 1-0 as Darnell continued his recent tear with a double to left scoring Merrifield.

USC got on the board again in the fourth. After Smoak got on base on an error, Drew Crisp eventually extended his 19-game hitting streak with an RBI-single to left tying his career-high set his freshman year.

Bulldogs starting pitcher Matt Talley pitched well enough to win and had the Gamecocks off balance all night. The freshman lefty pitched six innings giving up just one earned run and five hits.

"I thought Matt Talley was very special for The Citadel. He pitched great. He worked both sides of the plate, got his breaking ball, his change-up over, and just like Nick Godwin he had a quality start."

South Carolina tried to make it interesting again in the ninth when after Bangs struck out the lead-off batters, back-to-back errors from Drew Crisp and Darnell gave the Bulldogs runners at the corners with just one out. Bangs was up to the challenge, though, and struck out the remaining two batters, his fourth and fifth K's of the night, to leave with the win.

The Gamecocks will not have much time to think about their come-from-behind win as they return home to Sarge Frye Field to take on Davidson at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Sean Wideberg will be making his first career start for USC.

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