Game 2: Dawgs Make Comeback to Win 5-3

Snoopy used to start all his stories "It was a dark and stormy night..." He described perfectly Ray Tanner's mood Saturday night after the Gamecocks dropped their second straight game of the day to the Georgia Dogs. Georgia scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth to win the SEC matchup 5-3. And it really was a dark and stormy night.

Ray Tanner is in his 21st season as a head college baseball coach, his 12th at South Carolina, but it was clear he is still a fan of the game as he marveled at the first game of the day between his team and Georgia, a classic pitcher's duel that didn't see a single run score until the bottom of the ninth inning. He was even stoic about his team being on the losing end of the score, smiling as he said, "It was a great college baseball game."

He wasn't smiling after his team lost the second game, and he watched his whole day go to the dogs. Reese Havens had two solo home runs to lead USC to a 3-1 lead for most of the game, but his coach's frustration after watching his team let that lead slip away was clearly evident as he spoke after the game.

He said of Havens, "He tried to help us win the games. He had some solo home runs, and although you're grateful for them, it's nice when you have runners aboard."

The Gamecock pitching staff started strong on the mound in both games and pitched well, only to give the game away in the Bulldogs last time at bat each time. Game 2 starter Will Atwood surrendered a solo home run in the first inning to leadoff hitter Ryan Peisel, but then steadied himself and pitched a shutout until the bottom of the eighth inning. Georgia took advantage of a Gamecock fielding error by James Darnell to get Joey Lewis on base to open their half of the inning, then Adam Fuller singled to give Georgia two men on with no one out. Michael Demperio hit a sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position. Peisel then came on to stroke his third hit of the game to score both runners on base and tie the game at three apiece. Tanner then elected to deliberately walk Georgia's biggest bat, Gordon Beckham, and then bring Brandon Todd in to relieve Atwood. Rich Poythress hit a base hit just past Harley Lail in right field to score Peisel and give the Dogs a 4-3 lead. Bryce Masanari then added an insurance run with an RBI to close out the Bulldog scoring.

Tanner said of his team's lapses in the eighth inning, "We had a couple of breakdowns on defense, it ended up costing us. Good teams will do that to you."

When Georgia was on the mound, it was the exact opposite. Though struggling early, they shutout the Gamecock offense when it counted. Georgia's bullpen has not allowed an earned run in its past nine SEC games. On Saturday, they tossed four more scoreless innings bringing that total to 29.1 innings.

Carolina was in place to rally in the top of the ninth as their first two batters reached base with a single by Andrew Crisp and a walk to Kyle Enders. A sacrifice bunt from Lail gave Carolina runners in scoring position at second and third base. Georgia relief pitcher Dean Weaver struck out DeAngelo Mack for the second out of the inning. Georgia then intentionally walked Reese Havens to load the bases. The Gamecock's hopes then rested on Whit Merrifield, who hit a fly ball to right field to give the Bulldogs the victory.

The SEC doubleheader sweep against the Gamecocks took Georgia from a tie for second in the SEC East to sole possession of first in the division. Georgia is now 19-10 overall and 8-3 in the SEC, while the loss drops Carolina to 20-9 and 6-5 in conference play.

Georgia reliever Alex McRee earned the win after one scoreless inning of work. He is 5-1 on the year. Weaver picked up his first save of the year with a scoreless ninth inning. Gamecock starting pitcher Will Atwood suffered his first loss of the season and is now 3-1. He went 7.2 innings and allowed five runs, two earned, on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Carolina and Georgia each traded runs in the first inning courtesy of each team's leadoff hitter. Havens delivered a solo homer to center field to start off the game and put Carolina on top by run. The lead would be short-lived though as Peisel responded for Georgia in their bottom half with a homer to right field to tie the game at one apiece.

The Gamecocks regained the lead in the fourth inning when Justin Smoak hit his seventh home run of the season, putting him just two short of the Carolina all-time record. Smoak currently has 46 career homers as a Gamecock. USC increased their lead to 3-1 in the sixth inning on Havens' second homer of the game and his 10th of the year. Havens delivered on a first pitch from Dodson with a long shot to right center to give Carolina a two-run lead. It marked Havens' second career multi-homer game, the last one coming on April 22, 2007 at Ole Miss. It was Haven's ninth home run of the season.

"We played very well today, and we were fortunate to get that first one, and we got the job done in the second game as well," said Georgia coach David Perno. "We got some tremendous pitching, and our hitters stayed focused throughout the day. We struggled at the plate, but they kept pushing and eventually came through in both games."

The series concludes Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Junior left-hander Nathan Moreau (1-0, 3.10 ERA) will start for the Bulldogs while USC counters with sophomore right-hander Blake Cooper (3-2, 3.03 ERA).

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