The Citadel squeaks out 5-3 win over USC

A night after pounding out 21 hits, the South Carolina baseball team faced much slower goings against The Citadel as they scraped out a 5-3 win to take the season series at 2-0. The Bulldogs used two runs in top of the 11th inning to eek out the victory. For more details, continue reading below.


Apparently, it was opposite day at Carolina Stadium on Wednesday.

A day after blowing away one opponent from Charleston, the South Carolina baseball team found themselves in a war with another lowcountry foe as The Citadel used three hits and a hit-by-pitch in the top of the 11th inning to sweep the season series 5-3.

"It's disappointing, but you know they had their chances (and) we had ours. It's not like we dominated the game, we didn't dominate the game," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "It's always disappointing when you lose, but we'll have practice tomorrow and be ready to go Friday."

On Tuesday, USC belted out 21 hits for 20 runs. The next night they went for a meager 10 hits and three runs. Against the College of Charleston on Tuesday, the USC pitchers were touched up for six runs on 12 hits. The next night, The Citadel notched three of their 10 hits and two of their runs in one inning while garnering 10 strikeouts.

There were nine extra base hits for the Gamecocks when they faced the Cougars. Against the Bulldogs they found only one. There were even times when Carolina Stadium seemed to be cheering for the visiting team instead of the home squad.

All those opposites blended together to put The Citadel (21-14) in position to pull off their second win over the Gamecocks this season. The Bulldogs won 12-5 at Joe Riley Park in the previous meeting on March 31.

"That one's tough to swallow. The Citadel's a good team but they're a team we feel like we should beat the majority of the time," USC outfielder Whit Merrifield said. "They outplayed us twice this year. So, it's tough to swallow. Every game is important."

USC (24-13) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off Citadel freshman TJ Clarkson as back-to-back singles by Whit Merrifield and DeAngelo Mack started the game and gave Jackie Bradley, Jr. an RBI single opportunity to make it 1-0 Gamecocks. That lead held until the fifth inning when The Citadel used three hits and a throwing error by Andrew Crisp at third to post two runs and take a 2-1 lead. The Gamecocks would respond in the bottom half of the frame with two runs of their own to retake the lead at 3-2. The final run came on a Parker Bangs single off the wall in left that scored Nick Ebert. But Bangs got greedy in the base running effort and was gunned down trying to reach second.

Clarkson settled in and finished eight strong innings with a career high seven strikeouts and 134 pitches as he retired the last nine batters he face in order.

"He just threw strikes. He filled up the zone. He wasn't too overpowering, I don't think. He just threw strikes and gave his team a chance to win," Bradley said.

That lead held until the eighth when the Bulldog's Sid Fallaw hit a leadoff single and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and groundout. With two down, second baseman Bryan Altman lined one over the glove of shortstop Bobby Haney for the tying run. Altman, who finished the night 4-for-6 with a run and RBI, was the Bulldogs' best hitter of series by far as he went a combined 7-for-9 with four runs and three RBI in the two games.

"Altman must be hitting .800 against us in his career," Tanner said. "I told coach Fred Jordan after the game, I said ‘Whatever you got left, just tell Altman that it's the Gamecocks and you'll be in good shape.' Whatever the color of the uniform is, tell him it's garnet and black and he'll do well. He's really been clutch against us."

After a scoreless ninth, USC moved into extra innings for just the second time this season as Bangs (1-2) came on to pitch what ended up being the last two innings of play. Things started out well for the right hander in the 10th as he threw three pitches for three outs to retire the Bulldogs quickly.

The Carolina batters looked like they might have the answers as Haney drew a leadoff walk and was bunted over by Merrifield. The Citadel issued an intentional walk to Mack in an effort to get to Ebert, but he was hit right in the back on the first pitch he saw from reliever Matt Refisnider (1-1) to load the bases. That's when Bradley grounded into what Tanner called a "room service" double play at second to end the threat. It turned out to be the only double play for either team the whole night.

"I hit it hard, just right at them. I saw the pitch I wanted and I just hit it right at the second baseman and he doubled me up," Bradley said.

The Citadel jumped all over that mistake in the 11th as a leadoff single by Altman was followed by a single from Sonny Meade to center. The ball was misplayed by Merrifield allowing Altman to race home and give the Bulldogs the lead. Another single and walk loaded the bases, and bangs plunked pinch hitter Trey Thomas allowing an insurance run to cross.

USC made another run in the bottom half of the frame as back-to-back singles by Jeffery Jones and Crisp put two on. Scott Wingo was trying to bunt the runners over but instead saw four straight pitches out of the zone to draw a walk that loaded the bases. Tanner went to the bench again with Brady Thomas who hit a laser shot at first for a line out. Another pinch hitter came up as Michael Roth popped out just beyond the infield, and Merrifield ended the game with a grounder to second.

Though they had the bases loaded twice in extra innings, the poor finish is one Bradley knows the team must put behind them heading into the Auburn series this weekend.

"It blows my mind. It's part of the game though," Bradley said. "We've got to learn to accept it and move on from it. Everyone's not going to come through in certain situations and we have to learn to accept that."


NOTES:

- USC infielder Andrew Crisp is now tied for 10th place all-time in the history books with 230 career hits. He is tied with Skeets Thomas.

- The sweep of the season series with South Carolina is the first for The Citadel since 1961.

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