Gamecocks head to Omaha after clutch 10-9 win

In a game - and series - that lived up to its to billing as one of the most exciting, talked about Super Regional series in the state of South Carolina, it was the Gamecocks (48-15) that won the in-state battle over Coastal Carolina (55-10), 10-9, to make its 9th appearance in Omaha in school history. It will be the first appearance since 2004.

The game went back and forth the entire afternoon. Coastal got on the board first in the top of the first. After a Scott Woodward ground out, Rico Noel crushed one over the bleachers in left field for his 12th homerun of the season to give the Chants a 1-0 lead. Coastal appeared poised to strike for more in the inning. After a four pitch walk to Tommy La Stella, Jose Iglesias seemingly had a base hit to left field. However, Adrian Morales made a diving stop and started an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

The Gamecocks answered with a pair of runs in its half of the first. Evan Marzilli led off with a double to the gap in left center off Coastal starting pitcher, Cody Wheeler. Whit Merrifield followed with an infield single to short. Taylor Motter's throw to first was in the dirt and Rich Witten couldn't handle it. Marzilli scored on the error and Merrifield advanced to second.

Jackie Bradley Jr hit a fly ball that left fielder Chance Gilmore misplayed for an RBI double that scored Merrifield to give the Gamecocks the lead at 2-1. The hit by Bradley Jr extended his hit streak to 16 games. An infield single by Christian Walker put runners on the corners with only one out, but Wheeler induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Adam Matthews.

Coastal came right back in the second on yet another 1-out homerun over the bleachers in left - this one on Taylor Motter's 12th of the season. Daniel Bowman followed with a double down the left field line. An RBI single by Rich Witten gave Coastal the lead and ended Dyson's day on the mound. Jose Mata came in and didn't fare any better. After retiring Adam Rice, Mata hit Woodward and walked Noel to load the bases. Tommy La Stella blooped one over the head of Bobby Haney to score two and give the Chants a 5-2 lead.

Carolina battled back in the 3rd. After a 2-out walk to Morales, Walker hit a hard grounder that Woodward couldn't handle at 3rd. Matthews made the Chants pay by lacing an RBI double down the 3rd base line. Gilmore bobbled it off the careen from the fence down the left field line, allowing Walker to score from first and Matthews to advance to 3rd. Kyle Enders followed with an infield single up the middle to score Matthews and tie the game, 5-5. After a Haney blooper into center, Wheeler got Wingo swinging to end the inning.

Coastal came right back in their half of the 4th. Witten led off with a single to center and moved over to second on a SAC bunt by Rice. That ended Mata's day in favor of Steven Neff. After striking out Woodward for the second out, Neff hit Noel and walked La Stella to load the bases for the second inning in a row. John Taylor came in, but walked Iglesias on a 3-2 pitch to give the Chants a 6-5 lead. Taylor struck out Gilmore looking to end the inning and limit the damage.

Wheeler's day came to a close in the bottom of the 4th. After walking Marzilli to start the inning and moving to second on a wild pitch, Wheeler was able to get Merrifield and Bradley Jr to ground out. Ryan Connolly came in and got Morales looking to end the threat and preserve the Coastal lead.

John Taylor's day ended in the 6th. After a leadoff single by Adam Rice and a Woodward SAC, Taylor got Noel to fly out to center for his final recorded out. Michael Roth came in and La Stella greeted him with an RBI single to give the Chants a 7-5 lead. Iglesias laced one to left center that appeared to be trouble, but Marzilli made a diving catch to end the inning.

A lead-off walk to Haney in the bottom of the 6th ended Connolly's day. Matt Laney came out of the bullpen to face Wingo, who SAC bunted Haney to second. Nick Ebert pinch-hit for Marzilli and delivered an RBI single to right center to score Haney. Robert Beary came in to run for Ebert at first, and moved to second on a wild throw on a Laney pickoff attempt. Beary moved to third on a Merrifield chopper to Woodward, and Bradley Jr worked a walk to put runners on the corners with two outs.

That ended Laney's brief outing as Coastal wanted to set up a righty-righty match up with Morales, bringing in Austin Fleet. It appeared to pay off as Morales hit a grounder to Woodward at third. Woodward turned to throw to second but La Stella wasn't at the bag. Woodward then rushed a throw to first, pulling Witten off the bag and he was unable to tag Morales as Beary scored the game-tying run. Fleet struck Walker out looking to end the inning with the scored tied, 7-7.

As had been the case all afternoon, Carolina was unable to contain the momentum and hold the Chanticleers at bay. After Taylor retired the first two batters in the 7th, Bowman hit a line drive homerun over the short porch in left to give the Chants the lead once again, 8-7. Ethan Carter replaced Taylor and retired Witten to end the inning.

After holding Carolina in the 7th, Coastal would extend its lead again in the 8th. Woodward singled with one out and stole second. After a Noel pop up, Carter intentionally walked La Stella to set up a righty on righty match-up with Iglesias. Iglesias came through for the Chants, delivering an RBI single to left. Carter struck out Gilmore to end the inning and keep the Gamecocks within striking distance, 9-7.

The bottom of the 8th will be one that the Gamecock and Chanticleer fans in attendance won't forget for a long time. The inning started off promising with Beary drawing a walk.

It seemed to quickly fade away when Merrifield grounded into a double play - the third of the game for the Gamecocks - to seemingly end any possible threat. Bradley Jr worked a walk and Morales followed with a double down the left field line. Fleet left a 1-2 slider inside to Walker, who drilled it over the left field bleachers to give the Gamecocks their first lead since the first inning, 10-9. Fleet struck out Matthews to end the inning, but the damage had been done and the Gamecocks were three outs away from Omaha.

Carolina wasted no time bringing in closer Matt Price in the 9th inning. He struck out Motter, who had homered earlier in the game, for the first out of the inning. Bowman came out swinging at the first pitch, flying out to right for the second out. Witten hit a grounder to short, Haney came up with it, threw it to Walker at first, setting off a Garnet and Whit celebration and sending the Gamecocks back to Omaha!

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