USC wins series with dominant Easter effort

Just like yesterday, Mississippi State got off to a quick start with a solo home run in the 1st inning, but this time it was the Gamecock's quick answer and a dominant relief performance by Matt Price that sealed the victory and the series win for Carolina.

Jay Brown came into the game with a wealth of experience compared to usual Sunday starter Tyler Webb, but he didn't show it initially as Luke Adkins knocked a monster home run that cleared the right field wall and exited the stadium for a quick 1-0 lead. Brown bounced back in the first with consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.

Although he was lifted after the 3rd inning and giving up another solo homer, Brown got plenty of help from his teammates to fill the offensive void that was missing for much of the second game of the series.

On the first pitch he saw on the afternoon, Nick Ebert sent a home run into the USC bullpen for a 2-1 lead, and exorcised at least some of the demons that have been plaguing him this year.

"I probably felt as good as he did, and I didn't hit it," said Tanner in describing his big hitter from last year. "I called him in before the game today, and I said, ‘Nick, I know you're frustrated, I'm frustrated, but you're hitting cleanup. I just can't turn the page yet.' He had a pretty good day."

It was the bottom of the 3rd, after State had come back to tie it, that really got the Gamecocks going and saw the Bulldog pitching staff begin its afternoon-long meltdown.

After Whit Merrifield grounded out to lead off the inning, State allowed 5 straight baserunners, including walking the first 3. State starter Tyler Whitney lasted just 2.1 innings on the day, and gave up 5 walks and 5 earned runs to match.

Adam Matthews brought a run in as he was hit by a pitch for Carolina to grab a lead they would not give up. Then Adrian Morales, who got the start at 3rd base today, drilled a 2-RBI double. When all was said and done, 5 runs had scored in the inning and it was suddenly 7-2 Gamecocks.

In total, State's pitching staff allowed 8 walks on Sunday, giving Carolina's hitters many chances to drive them in.

"Well I like the fact that we drew some walks, you know I thought we had some pretty good approaches at the plate," said Tanner. "Those are the things that will win baseball games, to get an extra base, and I was pleased with that part of our offense today."

Tanner was complimentary especially of Morales, who came off the bench in a big way on Sunday, finishing 2-4 with a home run and 3 RBI.

"Morales is a guy that is sort of a field general. Your team's better with him on the field. His numbers haven't been real good so he hasn't played all the time. But he makes our team better if he can stay on the field."

In the 4th the Gamecocks continued to pour it on with the longball, getting a 3-run shot from DH Parker Bangs before Morales went deep for a solo job. An 11-2 lead was more than enough for reliever Matt Price, who settled in nicely once Jay Brown was lifted.

Tanner noted that Brown didn't have a terrible start, but was missing a little bit on his pitches and he was able to count on the depth of his bullpen to save the day.

"He scuffled a little bit missing some spots, and that's why I lifted him early," added Tanner. "He missed some spots there, he got out of any big innings. We had Price, Carter, and Roth available, and I wasn't going to leave them in the bullpen."

Price gave up just 2 hits during his 5 innings of work, striking out 6 Bulldogs while walking just 3 and not allowing any runs.

Two errors gave Carolina two more runs in the 6th before Scott Wingo finished off the scoring with an RBI triple.

The 14-2 margin Price handed Ethan Carter to finish out the 9th was more than enough as Carter got them in order and finished off the game with a strikeout of Wes Thigpen.

Price picked up the win for Carolina on a day that saw USC respond quickly to the State offense, and saw their pitching respond as well, shutting them down and not allowing any runs other than the two solo HR's given up by Brown.

While the Sunday starter position is still somewhat up in the air, Tanner said that he planned to keep Price in a relief role where he could be the most valuable to the team.

The 14 runs was the most runs scored by the Gamecocks in an SEC game this season after the one-run loss last night.

Tyler Whitney took the loss for the Bulldogs, and their relievers weren't very sharp either. Luke Bole and Corey Collins each allowed 3 earned runs while Greg Houston gave up 2 earned in his appearance. Collins also allowed an unearned run thanks to the shaky defense behind him in the 6th inning.

With the win and a Florida loss on Sunday, Carolina moved a game up in first place in the SEC East at 7-2.

The Gamecocks will have to play well at home down the stretch, a place they've defended with tenacity so far this season. Coach Tanner said he hopes the team will continue its great play at home and continue to grow over the second half of the season.

"You better defend the home turf," said Tanner. "Like I told them it's going to get harder, it's going to get more difficult in the second half. I think there's a lot of guys that really don't think we've played like we're capable of playing."

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