Gamecocks deliver late in season saving win

Facing long odds to keep the season alive, Jackie Bradley Jr. delivered a clutch RBI single to score Robert Beary, and minutes later came around to score the winning run, giving South Carolina (50-16) a 3-2 victory against Oklahoma (50-18). It took twelve long innings in front of the largest crowd of the series, but USC survived another day to set up a titanic matchup with the Clemson Tigers.

It was a game that seemingly wouldn't end. And thanks to several huge base hits, neither will South Carolina's 2010 season.

USC overcame Tyler Ogle's twelfth inning home run that gave Oklahoma a 2-1 lead, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame to secure the win and save the season.

Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brady Thomas both delivered with RBI singles in the bottom of the twelfth inning, giving USC a 3-2 win and keeping alive their hopes for a national title in the final season at Rosenblatt Stadium.

"It was a battle," said USC head coach Ray Tanner. "We just kept scrapping and trying to stay in position to win. And it was late, but Jackie came up with a big hit and Brady hits one through the middle. It was an incredible win for us."

This time, the largest crowd in this year's CWS nearly saw USC's year end on a day of frustration, as the Gamecocks blew chance after chance with runners in scoring position against OU starter Zach Neal and the rest of the Sooner pitchers.

Neal, who was born in Columbia, showed why he came into the game with a solid 8-3 record in over ninety-eight innings pitched this year.

South Carolina finished the night just 3-13 with runners in scoring position, but rebounded in a big way and came through twice in the final frame.

It was a season that came down to one final strike, as Bradley Jr. worked a 3-2 count against Oklahoma closer Ryan Duke and finally singled through the right side to plate Robert Beary and tie it at two.

Jeffery Jones walked on four pitches before Brady Thomas capped a 1-6 night with his only hit, his biggest of the year that scored Bradley Jr. and set off a wild celebration at the plate for Carolina.

Both Bradley Jr. and Thomas were 0-5 coming into their last at-bats.

"I was fortunate enough to get the big hit at the end of the game, just fighting and battling," said Bradley Jr. "I knew I was going to get my chance, and I made it count."

Thomas was able to sum up the team's determination to not go home with a loss tonight.

"Yeah I mean, we struggled early on, we were just able to flush it," noted the Carolina DH. "And (we) just battled like we've done all year. And we were able to come through. It felt really good."

It was Zach Neal that celebrated most of the day, shutting down the Carolina bats over the first seven innings. The big right-hander gave up just five hits before departing following Evan Marzilli's leadoff double in the eighth.

Neal kept USC hitters guessing consistenly, at one point retiring fourteen straight Gamecocks from the first to the fifth inning.

"When he got the ball, he was terrific," said Oklahoma coach Sonny Golloway. "I mean, he pitched the game of his career at Oklahoma right here at Rosenblatt. I can't say enough about just how poised he was and how terrific he pitched for us today. And that goes for all our guys."

It would go on to be a tough ending for Neal, who struck out seven while walking one and giving up one earned run in seven complete innings of work.

Jeremy Erben relieved Neal after Marzilli's two base hit leading off the eighth. Christian Walker drove him home to finally score the first Carolina run of the day and tie the game at one.

Walker's single was part of a solid day at the plate for him as he went 3-5 with three singles to go along with the run batted in.

Caleb Bushyhead had given Oklahoma a 1-0 lead in the second inning as he continued to frustrate Blake Cooper. Bushyhead finished with three runs driven in during the two games played against USC.

Coming back on three day's rest for the first time this season, Blake Cooper sparkled, giving up only the one second inning run to the Sooners in five and two-thirds innings of work. Cooper gave up just four hits and one earned run over the ninety-seven pitches he threw on the evening.

"Impressive," said Tanner. "No question about it. Cooper gave us a heck of a start. He gave us a quality start. And he's in great shape. (I) can't say enough good things about Coach Calvi and the pitching staff. They've been outstanding."

Michael Roth and John Taylor bridged the gap between Cooper and closer Matt Price, combining for two and a third innings and keeping Carolina in the game.

If Roth and Taylor were good, Matt Price was excellent, coming in to fire three innings of scoreless relief with the game on the line.

Price capped his day by striking out the side in the eleventh inning, getting the Chris Ellison and Max White looking before getting power man Garrett Buechele swinging to end the inning.

Price came out of the game after throwing eighty-nine pitches combined over his past two innings, giving way to freshman Ethan Carter.

Carter gave up the USC bullpen's only hit over six innings following Cooper's departure, but it was a big one as Tyler Ogle drove a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right-center for the 2-1 lead.

But it would all come crashing down for Oklahoma in the bottom of the inning as they ended their first trip to Omaha in fifteen years with a stunning loss.

The win gives Carolina a 50-win season for the first time since 2004, and it is just the fifth time in school history the team has reached that mark.

And now, a matchup with Clemson to determine which team from the Palmetto State will get a chance to play for college baseball's national championship.

"It's going to be fun," said Bradley Jr. "We have to take it one game at a time. Of course we know who we're playing, big rivalry and all, but, like you said, it's just playing another baseball game. Just gotta win or go home."

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