Turkey Shoot: Gamecocks Clinch Regional 10-2

There's no place like home. After two years of playing on the road for the NCAA Regionals and being sent packing by the respective home teams, South Carolina stayed home and advanced to the Super Regionals for the eighth time since 2000 with a 10-2 victory over Virginia Tech. And a little home cooking.

South Carolina fell behind early in all three games of the Columbia regional this weekend, but in the comfortable environs of their home stadium, the Gamecocks rallied each time, and their third win clinched the regional championship for them.

The ACC's Virginia Tech came in ranked 16th nationally, just four spots behind the Gamecocks, but the Gamecocks expect to be in the NCAA playoffs every year, and the Hokies were making their first appearance since 2000. USC delivered like a team destined for greater things, with the USC pitching staff shutting out the Hokies after the first inning, and the USC bats making the most of their opportunities by scoring ten unanswered runs to put the game out of reach.

Virginia Tech wasted no time in scoring first, plating two runs on a homer by Steve Domecus in the bottom of the first inning. After that, it was all Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks scored six runs in the sixth inning. Christian Walker and Kyle Enders got on base with back-to-back singles and USC trailing 2-1. Bobby Haney's fly ball advanced Walker to third and brought up Scott Wingo with two out. Wingo hit the ball into right field, scoring Walker to give the Gamecocks a 3-2 lead. With Enders on third, Evan Marzilli stepped to the plate and hit a ball exactly where Wingo had to score Enders. Wingo then came home on a Whit Merrifield RBI single to make it 5-2.

The Hokies changed pitchers at that point, but Jackie Bradley Jr. delivered a rude welcome as he knocked the ball deep over the right-field wall to blow the game wide open, scoring Marzilli and Merrifield to make it 8-2.

USC would score two more runs after that, but Jay Brown, Joe Mata and the USC pitching staff made sure that no more runs were needed. Mata (7-1) pitched 4.1 innings of superb relief, allowing only two hits while striking out a career-high five batters to pick up the win. Brown got the start for South Carolina, and gave up two runs on four hits while striking out and walking one apiece. Closer Michael Roth shut the door with a perfect ninth.

"(We are) very happy to be in this position right now," USC Head Coach Ray Tanner said. "We got behind all three games, we battled hard. We played about as good as we can and we're looking forward to playing next week. Our guys have earned the opportunity to keep playing."

Where they will play next week will not be decided until Monday night. The Columbia Regional was paired with the Myrtle Beach Regional, hosted by the #4 national seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. But the Chants lost against the College of Charleston, and had to defeat Stony Brook in the loser's bracket there for the right to face the College of Charleston again. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the 9th, the Chants scored a two run walk-off home run to stay alive. The two teams will face off again at 7 pm Monday night. If Coastal Carolina wins, the Gamecocks will travel to Myrtle Beach to face the Chants. If the College of Charleston wins, they will travel to Columbia, where USC will play host for the Super Regional.

"We may be on the road, we may be at home the next round," Tanner said. "If we go on the road, I feel like we'll have pretty good attendance, too." Saturday night's win was witnessed by an enthusiastic crowd of 6,233.

South Carolina has not hosted a super regional since 2004, the last year they advanced to the College World Series.

Marzilli had a career-high three hits in five at-bats, scoring twice and driving in a run. Walker was also 3-for-5 with an RBI. Enders and Merrifield each had two hits with Merrifield scoring twice and Enders once. Bradley drove in four runs, three of which came on the three-run homer in the sixth that extended his hitting streak to 14 games.

The Columbia Regional All-Tournament Team was dominated by USC players, with the Most Outstanding Player award going to Adrian Morales. Kyle Enders, Evan Marzilli, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brady Thomas, and pitcher Blake Cooper made the team. Virginia Tech's Austin Wates and Buddy Sosnoski also made the team. The rest of the All-tourney team were from The Citadel: Bryan Altman, Kyle Jordan, and pitcher Matt Talley.

South Carolina (46-15) has won 14-consecutive postseason games at home and is now 3-0 at Carolina Stadium in NCAA Tournament play. Virginia Tech (40-22) finished the season with its best record since 1999, when the Hokies went 42-17. The Hokies won two postseason games for only the second time in school history, defeating Bucknell on Saturday and The Citadel in Sunday's first game.

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