It was a back and forth game through 4 innings, but runs for Carolina in the 5th, 6th and 7th inning the Gamecocks added to a one run lead and got a victory on a rainy afternoon in Columbia.
More mistakes from Carolina pitching and defense allowed Valpo to take a 1-0 lead after the top half of the 1st inning. After seeing problems with walks and hit batters in Tuesday's game, it was a point of concern for Gamecock pitchers, who definitely recovered in a big way. Jimmy Revan struck out the leadoff man, but had consecutive hit by pitch and walk to put two runners on. Christian Walker made a low throw and Nick Ebert could not scoop it out, allowing a run to score, making it 1-0.
Not only was USC able to take the lead after the bottom of the 2nd, but Whit Merrifield also broke the school record for consecutive games with a hit, running his streak to 26 games. He was tagged out trying to advance to 2nd, but not before Scott Wingo was able to score to give the Gamecocks the 2-1 advantage.
"Well I'm happy for (Whit), he's the type of guy you like to see break a record," said Ray Tanner after the game. "He shows up every day and plays for you and plays hard, and he's a team guy. He's done a great job and I'm glad to see him be able to reach that milestone."
Valparaiso recovered in the 4th after Revan had been stringing together the strikeouts, taking a 3-2 lead on a home run by left fielder Justin Frane. After the home run Revan was able to settle back in with three consecutive outs.
Nick Ebert got things going in the bottom of the 4th with a single to center, and moved up to second on the error by the Valpo CF. After consecutive walks to Thomas and Wingo, Merrifield came up with the bases loaded and was able to deliver. Although he didn't get a hit, Kyle Muhlfsteff had a throwing error allowing two USC runners to score and continue the see saw affair, with USC taking a 4-3 lead.
Matt Price relieved Jimmy Revan in the 5th inning, and continued to keep Crusader hitters off balance.
"Matt Price was throwing the ball well for us and we decided to put him in the middle of the game," said Tanner. "I wanted to save him for late but not knowing what was going to happen weather wise, you didn't know how long it was going to last. So we wanted to get him in there in a situation to decide the game, and he threw the ball very, very well."
Price continued his good work, holding the Crusaders scoreless for the four straight innings, and maintaining the Carolina lead. Despite Revan's solid afternoon with 7 strikeouts, Price was even better totaling 8 punchouts.
Not to be outdone, Parker Bangs came in to finish up the 9th and struck out the side. After the smoke had cleared, the Gamecock pitchers had tied a record of 18 strikeouts last reached at Auburn on March 17, 2006.
In the offensive categories, the Gamecocks were led by Evan Marzilli, who came in to spell a slumping Christian Walker and finished 1-1 with a walk and 2 runs scored. Tanner said that the young Walker has to get things figured out at the plate if he hopes to continue with significant playing time.
"I think (Christian's) pressing," noted Tanner. "He had a great fall for us, and he looked like one of the better hitters maybe to ever put on our uniform. And that kind of billing is very very difficult early on in your career. In hindsight I may have put too much pressure on him. But he's going to have a step back now and reevaluate things. We're not going to give up on him."
Brady Thomas scored 3 runs, going 2-3 at the plate, and with his hit, Nick Ebert also tallied an RBI.
The Gamecocks will take Thursday off before beginning a 3 game series against Brown on Friday at 7 p.m.
Strikeouts spell victory for Gamecocks
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