Power surge keys USC comeback

A 5-run eighth inning rally led by two big home runs was all it took for South Carolina (44-15) to recover from a deficit they had faced much of the game and pick up the 9-5 win over Bucknell (25-34) in their opening game of the 2010 NCAA tournament. Evan Marzilli, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Adrian Morales all went deep to lead the Gamecock offense.

With an offense continuing its postseason scuffles and a lineup stretched thin by substitutions, things were looking bleak for South Carolina heading into the latter innings of their opening day matchup with the Bucknell Bison.

But before you could say "loser's bracket," the Gamecock bats came alive and pounded the Bison bullpen for five eighth inning runs on two big blasts off the Carolina bats. Jackie Bradley Jr. gave USC it's first lead of the night with a two run shot, and Adrian Morales put it out of reach with a three run blast to complete the scoring.

"This is the happiest I've been all day," said Ray Tanner following the hard-fought win. "This is a survive-and-advance situation. They did a nice job on the mound early. We got some hits but no runs. Sam waffled a little bit, but he battled for us. We kept playing and kept fighting and found a way to get a win."

South Carolina starter Sam Dyson was sharp initially, giving up just a solo home run to Ben Yoder before rain and lightning forced an hour long delay in the top of the fourth inning.

Dyson escaped a first and third situation in the second inning, getting Drew Constable to fly out to deep right field and striking out Matt LaMore to end the frame with the bad weather looming over Carolina Stadium.

The Gamecocks wasted several opportunities to score early on, routinely stranding baserunners and failing to come up with key two out hits. USC stranded six in the first three innings alone before registering their first run.

Dyson ran back out after the delay, and ran straight into a great deal of trouble. After hitting Andrew Brouse with a pitch, Brouse promptly stole second base before advancing to third on a wild pitch. He then was nearly caught in a rundown after being unsure whether or not to go home on another ball that got away, but Brady Thomas was charged with a throwing error that allowed him to score to give Bucknell a 2-0 lead.

"I didn't think (Sam) was particularly sharp when he came back, but that might have not had anything to do with the rain delay," noted Tanner. "It's a difficult thing to go through."

Three straight two out hits for Carolina in the bottom of the fourth gave them a run back and an answer to Bucknell's biggest inning to that point in the game. Bobby Haney and Evan Marzilli singled through the left side before Whit Merrifield plated Haney with a double down the third base line to cut the Bison lead in half.

Dyson and Bucknell starter Dylan Seeley worked perfect fifth innings before the Bison broke it open and seemingly took control in the sixth.

Dyson walked Yoder to lead it off before Brouse singled, followed by an RBI double from Bucknell slugger Doug Shribman. Drew Constable brought Brouse in with a single, and David Duffet reached on a throwing error that allowed Shribman to score the third run of the inning and make it 5-1.

But Carolina would answer, finally getting a big two out hit as Evan Marzilli blasted his third homer run of the year to cut it to 5-3. His big fly also scored Morales, who doubled and would later homer to finish 3-5 on the night.

Marzilli was part of a shakeup promised earlier in the week by Tanner; as he tried to jump start his lineup to produce offensively.

"Marzilli had a great week of practice and so did Morales," added Tanner. "I really just tried to mix it up because we have been in a little bit of a funk. I was not trying to become a genius or anything; I was just trying to change the complexion of things. I didn't know if it really would work, but we did win, so we'll move on and have a great game tomorrow."

The Gamecocks further cut into the Bison lead with an RBI sacrifice fly from Robert Beary to plate a run in the seventh and make it a 5-4 game. It continued the torment for Carolina fans however, as the team had loaded the bases with nobody out and only managed to score the one run. Parker Bangs struck out looking after pinch hitting for Marzilli, despite Marzilli's home run earlier in the game.

Finally, the big inning South Carolina had been looking for the entire postseason of 2010 came, in the form of five runs on three hits in the bottom of the eighth. Merrifield walked before Jackie Bradley Jr. sent one just barely over the wall in left to take the lead and stun the Bucknell dugout.

"When I first hit it, I did not think it was out of here," said Bradley Jr. "But when I saw it start to carry a little bit and the ball got to its peak, I knew I got pretty much all of it."

But a 6-5 win was not in the cards for Carolina, who would add three more on the strength of Adrian Morales' homer, scoring Adam Matthews and Scott Wingo. That 9-5 lead was all it would take for Michael Roth, who continued to pitch through the ninth and earn his first win of the season.

Morales tied career high with three RBI, the fifth time this season he has done that, and it was his first homer since the Arkansas series. After struggling through the Florida series as well as the SEC tournament, it was a big night for Morales, who kept pushing through despite his previous struggles.

"I just kept swinging. Kept swinging and kept battling the whole year. I mean baseball's a game of failure, and it's going to go up and it's going to go down. I'm just glad I can come through today and help this team win."

Coach Tanner also agreed that his team was able to do the right things late in the game to snatch a win from Bucknell and prevent a shocking first game loss.

"There were so many things late in that game that became important. Certainly what Michael Roth did, he held them and gave us a chance to come back."

A win means that USC will have an in-state battle tomorrow, facing the Citadel and reigning Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year Asher Wojciechowski. The Citadel defeated Virginia Tech in the opening game of the Columbia regional by a score of 7-2.

South Carolina will be facing a familiar opponent, having beaten the Citadel twice this season, both at home and in Charleston. In Columbia, USC picked up a 10-1 win, while they defeated the Bulldogs 10-4 in Charleston.

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