USC powers, bunts past Ole Miss 9-5

Freshman DH Christian Walker hit a grand slam while catcher Brady Thomas added a solo home run as the Gamecocks (28-7, 11-3 SEC) hit their way past Ole Miss (23-13, 7-7 SEC), 9-5, in Game 2 of the three-game series. Starter Sam Dyson got the win and improves to 3-2 on the season. The Gamecocks will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

Welcome back to the line-up Christian Walker.

The much-hyped freshman, who entered the season as the starter at third base, hadn't started a game since the Auburn series three weeks ago until Tanner decided to start him at DH today.

Walker, who was hitting just .239 and hadn't hit a home run since opening day, responded by going two-for-four with four RBIs, including a second-inning grand slam that got the Gamecock offense going in a big way.

"Christian's had some good practices lately," head baseball coach Ray Tanner said. "We're headed down the back stretch, didn't want to lose him. I just told him, 'go in there, relax, no matter what happens today, the year is not over for you.' He had a couple of hits, and one was really big for us, so that was really good to see."

Ray Tanner continues to push all the right buttons for his team. It was just another line-up move in a season full of line-up moves, most of which have paid off.

With Walker at the DH spot, Tanner chose to give catcher Kyle Enders a day off and senior Brady Thomas a start in his place. Thomas has been a fixture in the line-up against right-handed pitchers, but according to Tanner the scouting report on Ole Miss starter Aaron Barrett said not to load the line-up with lefties.

Tanner went with Thomas anyway and he responded going three-for-four with a solo home run and a double.

Third baseman Adrian Morales added a career-high three hits and two RBIs as he, Walker and Thomas combined for seven of the team's nine RBIs and eight of the team's 16 hits. The 16 hits were the team's highest total since it had 18 against Presbyterian earlier this year and the second highest toal of the season.

After last night's game 1 of the series was all about pitching, today's contest was anything but.

Mississippi game 1 starter Drew Pomeranz was tabbed the mid-year national pitcher of the year by Baseball America, and today's starter Aaron Barrett entered the game with numbers almost as good. Barrett entered with just a 1.90 ERA and only one loss.

South Carolina wasn't impressed.

Barrett was chased after just 3.2 innings after giving up eight earned runs and 11 hits while striking out just three as he took his second loss of the season.

"We knew he was going to be good," Thomas said. "Didn't have a ton of walks either, so we knew he was going to be around the zone. We just had to be patient. The guy had a really good slider, it was hard to lay off of, but if it was around the zone we had to be ready to hit, and fortunately we were able to do that."

Gamecock starter Sam Dyson was up-and-down, but for the most part was able to bounce back from his outing at Vanderbilt a week ago. Dyson went 6.1 innings and got the win. The junior fire-baller walked three and hit two batters, giving up five runs, though none of them were earned.

"I was very happy about Sam Dyson today," Tanner said. "I'm going to be honest with you, I'm somewhat ecstatic -- I thought he was really good.

"You take away a couple of plays that we didn't make, maybe a couple of ball in the outfield -- not easy plays -- but we probably could have gotten a couple of outs we didn't get. Morales didn't make a play, and (Dyson) didn't make one of his own plays. Dyson didn't give up but, I believe, four hits. His line's pretty good. You get some of those outs that I just talked about, he has a really special day. I thought the ball came out of his hands well."

Dyson appeared to be in trouble from the get-go as Mississippi was able to scratch over a run in the first, though it could have been much worse.

Leadoff man Tanner Mathis dribbled a ball a few feet in front of the plate where Dyson fielded it, but slipped and could not make the throw. The next hitter Tim Ferguson put runners at first and second with nobody down when he lined a single into left.

RF Matt Smith then hit one long and deep to left field. Adam Matthews appeared to get to the ball, but couldn't make the play. The first run scored, but South Carolina got its first big break of the game as Smith passed Ferguson on the base paths for the first out of the inning, officially scored as an unassisted out credited to the first baseman.

After hitting a batter, Dyson was able to get out of the inning by way of a 4-6-3 double play on a ground ball right at Wingo at second.

After a three-up, three-down-first for the Gamecocks, and an easy top of the second for Dyson, the Carolina bats broke out in the bottom of the second.

Nick Ebert led off the inning with a single past a diving shortstop into left, before Thomas set the table putting runners at second and third with a double into the left-field corner. That's when Morales got his big day started, smacking a liner into right center to put the Gamecocks up 2-1.

Adam Matthews crushed a liner into right to put runners at first and second before a Bobby Haney perfect bunt towards third loaded the bases. A Scott Wingo single pushed the Gamecocks' third run of the day across before Matthews was thrown out at the plate.

After Whit Merrifield was hit by pitch to load the bases again, the Rebels appeared poised to possibly get out of the inning when they got the second out at home on a Jackie Bradley, Jr. fielder's choice.

That set the table for Walker, who sent the first pitch he saw, a hanging slider, screaming over the right field wall and into the Gamecock bullpen.

"If I hit early in the count, I can really let my swing go," said Walker, who says Tanner had been working with him on being more aggressive early in the count.

When the smoke cleared, the Gamecocks were up 7-1 thanks to the seven-hit, seven-run inning.

Ole Miss was able to battle back in the third pushing across two runs on sacrifice flies to center by Smith and Zach Miller.

But South Carolina was able to push across a run of its own in the bottom half as Thomas turned on another hanging slider smoking it over the right field wall.

After a scoreless fourth, both teams exchanged runs in the fifth. For Ole Miss, Ferguson walked with one out then stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. After leading off the bottom half of the inning with a double, Morales scored in similar fashion, going to third on a flyout to center before taking home plate on a Haney strikeout when catcher Taylor Hightower threw to first after the ball hit the ground.

After a scoreless sixth for both teams, Ole Miss threatened a come-back in the seventh. Morales booted a hot shot at third for an error to start the inning. Ebert fielded a chopper at first and stepped on the bag for the first out of the inning.

That closed the day on Dyson who gave way to Matt Price.

Price was not himself, though, and after getting a strikeout for the second out of the inning gave up an RBI-single to make the game 9-5 USC. Price then gave up another single and a walk before he was pulled in favor of freshman Ethan Carter. Carter wasted little time getting out of the inning as a lazy fly ball to center on his first pitch was put away by Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Carter got into a little trouble of his own in the eighth, but was able to get out of the inning unscathed after giving up a leadoff double to Alex Yarbrough. With runners on first and third the young righty got Mathis to strikeout looking and Ferguson to line out to Morales at third

Carter would give up a one-out single in the ninth, but a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play ball ended the game, giving Carter his first career save and sending the majority of the 7,952 fans in attendance home happy.

With the win, South Carolina has now won all five SEC series this season and has won eight in a row dating back to last season. South Carolina will go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon as Jay Brown will take on Mississippi's David Goforth with first pitch scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

"I'm happy to be where we are, but there's a long way to go," Tanner said of the streak the team is currently on. "I guess tomorrow is the halfway point in the league, and certainly we've held our own through the halfway point, but we're not awesome, we're not a devastating team. We don't dominate anybody, we scratch and claw...

"I just don't look at it like we're on a roll -- not in this league. About the time you feel pretty good about it, you get humbled."

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