Gamecocks close it out in style, win 11-6

Even with a Florida resting several starters and limiting their pitchers, the Gamecocks still had to work hard to beat the Gators in the final regular season game of the year and head to Hoover with one more win under their belts. With the win, they finished the regular season 43-13, 21-9 in the SEC. The loss dropped SEC champion Florida to 40-13, 22-8.

There would be no championships won on Saturday. No big hits would reclaim the SEC title from Florida, and there would certainly be no dogpiles on the mound at the end. Instead, the Gamecocks came out simply in search of a win. And win is what they did.

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s grand slam in the sixth gave Carolina a 7-0 lead, and although it would be an 8-0 lead through six innings, the Gamecocks still had to survive a furious Florida rally in the seventh to come out with the 11-6 victory. The win allowed USC to salvage one game of the three game set and head to Hoover with momentum on their side.

Adam Matthews once again gave the Gamecocks an early 1-0 lead with a solo home run, this time in the first inning, a deep blast off the batter's eye in centerfield. Matthews was also responsible for giving USC a short lived lead in last night's decisive game two, but this time it would be a wire-to-wire lead for USC.

In the second, it was Whit Merrifield adding to the USC lead with a two out RBI single that scored Bobby Haney and finally allowed the Gamecocks to exorcise some of the two out demons that had tormented them in the first two games of the series.

Jay Brown was very sharp on the afternoon, and combined with the big hits it was just enough to propel USC to victory. In total, Brown allowed just five hits in six and a third innings pitched, striking out four and walking just one.

He exited the game having allowed no runs, but John Taylor allowed two baserunners to score in the big inning that were charged to Brown.

With hits falling in all afternoon, the Gamecocks finally strung them together for a six-run sixth inning, highlighted by the grand slam from Bradley Jr. as well an RBI hit from Whit Merrifield and RBI groundout off the bat of Nick Ebert.

A blowout looked to be in order, but the winners of the SEC regular season title were not going to go quietly into the warm Carolina afternoon.

Although the seventh inning started innocently enough with a Josh Adams single, the Gators would go on to score six in that inning, turning a sunny afternoon suddenly clouding for the Gamecocks and leading to a great deal of hand-wringing in Carolina Stadium. After the initial RBI double by Hampton Tignor, Cody Dent contributed an RBI single and John Taylor walked Pigott.

Matt Price's initial relief effort didn't go much better when he came in and gave up a walk to Jerico Weitzel followed by a two RBI single from Ben McMahan and an RBI single from Adams, who led off the inning with a hit. That would be it for the Gators as Price finally stopped the bleeding with a strikeout of Tyler Thompson.

It's often said that the mark of a championship team is the character a team displays in the face of adversity. If Saturday's game and the Gamecock response to the Gator outburst is any indication, there may be championships still in store for this team.

With momentum firmly fixed in the Florida dugout, Carolina came out in the bottom of the seventh and stole it back, scoring two runs to increase the lead to 10-6. Bobby Haney led off the inning with a single, eventually scoring on a wild pitch, and Adam Matthews knocked Bradley in with a single.

Haney finished the game as one of the top Gamecocks at the plate, going 4-5 and scoring three runs in his final regular season game.

Nick Ebert would complete the scoring in the bottom of the eighth inning on a solo home run into the left field stands. It was a fitting end to the regular season for the much-maligned superstar of last year for USC, who has struggled through a difficult 2010 campaign.

After stumbling out of the gate in his initial appearance, Matt Price was able to recover in time to keep Florida off of the scoreboard for the rest of the afternoon.

With the 2010 regular season complete, the Gamecocks will now head to Hoover, Alabama and Regions Park for a chance to battle for the SEC tournament championship. USC will face Ole Miss in the second game of the tournament, starting thirty minutes after the conclusion of Auburn and Alabama, which star the tourney at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

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