Tight Super Regional opener goes to USC, 4-3

The first home Super Regional game in Coastal Carolina (55-9) history lived up to the hype on Saturday, with both pitching staffs trading big blows before South Carolina (47-15) finally closed the Chanticleers by a 4-3 score. It was the definition of a defensive struggle, with neither team scoring after the fourth. Blake Cooper picked up the win, while Matt Price came up huge and got the save.

As they so often seem to do, this tight ballgame came down to pitching and defense, where South Carolina proved to be the superior squad on this hot, muggy day on the coast of South Carolina.

Pitching was the name of the game, with both offenses struggling to score after breaking out early on. The day came to an end with Matt Price picking up where Blake Cooper left off, and coming up with big pitch after big pitch to preserve the one-run lead.

The Carolina offense was almost as hot as the weather in Myrtle Beach early, as the Gamecocks broke through with three first inning runs to seize control of this Super Regional and temporarily quiet a stunned Coastal Carolina crowd.

Christian Walker won the first battle of the day, beating Matt Rein and singling to left to score the first two runs of the game and give USC momentum early. The Gamecocks had loaded the bases with just one out, and Rein was still recovering from an apparent leg injury suffered covering first base on the opening play in the game.

Carolina would again load the bases in the second, but push just one run across on a bases loaded walk to Jackie Bradley Jr., running the score to 4-0. But Josh Conway worked out of trouble, and Coastal would regain the momentum and cut the Gamecock lead in half in the second.

Taylor Motter worked a two out walk before Daniel Bowman took advantage of the short fence in left and went up and over it to cut the USC lead in half, at 4-2. A Chance Gilmore RBI single would complete the scoring in the bottom of the fourth.

Blake Cooper was sharp in the first as he faced off with Rein, making just his fourth start of the year for the Chanticleers. The four run lead would prove to be all Cooper needed, and despite some tense moments he earned the win with seven innings of six hit baseball, giving up three earned runs and striking out five.

The offense would be a story of frustration the rest of the way for USC, with the Gamecocks leaving runners in scoring position in the fourth, sixth, eighth, and ninth innings. In total, eleven baserunners would be stranded as Carolina was hard-pressed to find the two out magic that worked so well during the regional in Columbia.

Carolina would also be forced to work around a big bases loaded jam in the in the bottom of the sixth, getting a key double play off the bat of Bowman with one out. The ball ricocheted off the glove of Cooper before Wingo fielded and stepped on the second base bag before firing over and just getting Daniel Bowman at first.

The Chanticleers would use seven total pitchers on the afternoon, but none would pitch more than 2.2 innings, leaving arms ready to come out of the Coastal bullpen tomorrow.

Things were once again tense for Carolina in the eighth, as Coastal Carolina loaded the bases, this time with no one out, chasing Cooper from the game. Michael Roth and Jose Mata both came in to try to take advantage of matchups with Coastal batters, but each one walked the only man they faced on the afternoon.

Clinging to a one run lead, Coach Tanner called upon his closer, inserting Matt Price into the game at one of the biggest points of Carolina's season.

Price delivered and then some, striking out Gilmore and getting Taylor Motter looking before retiring the Chants with a weak grounder off the bat of Bowman that Price flipped to Christian Walker at first before exchanging a chest-bump in celebration with the big infielder.

Carolina's bid to add some much needed insurance died in the ninth, when Walker popped out with runners on the corners and Jeffery Jones flied out to center.

Things wouldn't be easy in the bottom of the ninth either, and after getting Witten to fly out to lead off the inning, Price ran into a bit of trouble.

Adam Rice walked before Rico Noel hit a dribbler down the line that went for an infield count. Noel's was especially frustrating after Price had him on an 0-2 count. But again Price delivered, getting Tommy La Stella to fly out to center and preserve the one run victory.

The win puts South Carolina just one victory from heading to Omaha for the College World Series. It would be the first time since 2004 for the Gamecocks.

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