Oh What a Night! Gamecocks Blast Pirates 12-2

The Gamecock bats have been sizzling at the Greenville NCAA Regional. Blame it on the Margarita Chicken. Felled by food poisoning mid-week, catcher Justin Dalles was questionable whether he would be playing this weekend for the Gamecocks. He recovered nicely, hitting two home runs and driving in seven runs to lead a cruising USC to an easy 12-2 victory over the East Carolina Pirates.

The trip to Greenville NC was rough for Justin Dalles, having to throw up on a bus full of teammates and coaches. He was still throwing up before practice Thursday and having dry heaves during the rain delay of Friday's game, but he played Friday night. Saturday night wasn't so rough, as all he had to do was high five his teammate and coaches as he trotted home after hitting first a two run homer and later a grand slam.

"Yeah," Dalles said. "Food poisoning's gone." Dalles' seven RBI total is a season-high for a Gamecock player this year and the most since Justin Smoak tallied nine on April 15, 2008. The score was deceiving in that it did not show the ebb and flow of the game. East Carolina consistently got runners on base and in scoring position throughout the game, but ended up stranding 12 runners and did not score at all until late in the game when the outcome was no longer in doubt. "I certainly felt that leaving so many runners on might hurt us, but I didn't want to believe it," ECU coach Billy Godwin said.

"I just wanted our guys to keep competing. Leaving runners on base is sometimes an issue, but I just kept encouraging. I didn't want it to deflate us. I think it did catch up to us to be quite honest, though."

Gamecock starting pitcher Blake Cooper hurled his third complete game of the season, allowing two runs on 14 hits with six strikeouts and two walks. He has won four of five starts in May, and is now 9-4 on the year. "He was just making good pitches at big times in the game," ECU second baseman Ryan Wood. "He made a lot of good pitches tonight. I don't think you can go through our lineup like he did and not do that."

"We are very fortunate to be able to win tonight," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "East Carolina has a very potent offense and they had runners everywhere early in the game. I don't think I've ever been part of a situation so many that times that early in the game where we were able to get off the hook. You've got to give Blake (Cooper) a tremendous amount of credit for pitching out of some pickles. He's a cagey veteran and it's hard to get off the hook like he did. We are very fortunate. We had some big hits and we played a very nice game against them."

East Carolina starter Seth Maness took the loss and is now 9-2 for the season. Maness allowed six runs on 11 hits in 6.2 innings with three strikeouts and one walk.

South Carolina scored early in the nightcap, putting a one run lead up in the top of the first inning when Jackie Bradley scored Whit Merrifield.

In the second, designated hitter Adam Matthews hit a solo home run, and then did it again in the top of the 8th inning. "Adam Matthews is a special player," Tanner said. "He'll be in the starting lineup for us next year." Matthews and Dalles two homers in a one game were the eighth and ninth time this season that Gamecock batters have accomplished the feat. It was the most home runs scored in one game against ECU, and the USC's 17 hits were the third highest tally there against the Pirates on the season. The two-homer games by Dalles and Matthews is the first time a pair of Gamecocks have hit two or more homers in a game since May 10, 2006 when Andrew Crisp and Robbie Grinestaff both hit a pair in a 15-6 win over Georgia in the NCAA Super Regional.

"This afternoon, the coaches and I met and we were trying to figure out who we were trying to match up with Maness as a DH," said Tanner. "One scouting report told us to go with a right-handed hitter. Matthews can run. Adam is good and he can get around the bases a little so we decided to go with him and he had a big night for us."

The 2-0 lead Matthews gave USC in the second was all the numbers put on the board until the 6th inning, when Dalles thought time had been called, and almost stepped out of the batter's box. It wasn't, and he quickly put both hands on the bat and jacked the pitch out of the park to double the Gamecock scoring total and give them a 4-0 lead.

"I asked for time, and I actually took my right hand off the bat," Dalles said. "(The umpire) didn't give me time. I stepped back a little bit but not out of the box. He threw a pitch in the zone, and it looked pretty good. I put a swing on it and there it went."

Adam Matthews beat the throw to second when he hit a double, then beat the tag at home to give the Gamecocks a third run in the sixth. Dalles hit an RBI single in the top of the 7th to bring DeAngelo Mack home.

The coup de grace came in the eighth inning, when East Carolina gave up six runs in the top of the inning. It could have been worse; they got out of the inning with the bases loaded. Cory Thompson pinch hit for ECU in the eighth and hit his first career home run to finally put the Pirates on the board in the bottom of the eighth.

South Carolina improves to 40-21 on the year, the team's 10th straight season with 40-plus victories under head coach Ray Tanner. East Carolina falls to 43-18 for the year. South Carolina will return to action on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. and will face the winner of Sunday afternoon's elimination game between East Carolina and Binghamton.

Tanner isn't letting down his guard, despite his team being clearly in the regional driver's seat. "We're in the best position but by no means are comfortable or relaxing," he said. "We are playing in Greenville, North Carolina, and we know how good the Pirates are and how good they've been at home. We know we've got a lot of work to do ahead of us."

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories