Gamecocks will play for a championship

Omaha, Neb. -- The South Carolina Gamecocks have accomplished the improbable, beating the Clemson Tigers twice to head the national championship series against UCLA. After Michael Roth's dominant effort in a 5-1 win last night, Sam Dyson and Matt Price combined to hold the Tiger bats down just enough to pick up the 4-3 win. Christian Walker also drove in a run with a big home run in the fourth.

In the College World Series, against their biggest rivals, it appears that lightning really does strike twice for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Calling up memories of the great comeback of the 2002 season, USC once again defeated Clemson two times to come back from the loser's bracket and earn a spot in the berth in the championship series.

Tonight it was the power pitching of Sam Dyson and Matt Price that made the difference, keeping Clemson at bay long enough for Carolina to take down Casey Harman and the Tigers by a 4-3 tally.

The one run victory sends Carolina to a best-of-three series with the UCLA Bruins to determine college baseball's national champion.

"I'm proud of these guys up here and our team," said Ray Tanner following the victory. "We've just battled and tried to stay in (this) position all night long. It's very difficult to do against a team as talented and as good as Clemson is. Like I said, a very evenly matched game, and we get a chance to play now for the national championship."

Once again it came down to clutch pitches in big moments, but this time instead of Michael Roth's one man show, it would be the combination of Dyson and Price to save the day.

"It's incredible," added Tanner on his two pitchers. "Sam was terrific. And Matt gave us everything that he had left in the tank. Just a great win for us."

Coming in on just three days rest, Dyson was very effective against the Tigers in limiting them to two earned runs on five hits over six and two-thirds innings.

Perhaps equally effective was Clemson starter Casey Harman as the left-hander settled in after giving up a first inning run to hold the Gamecocks to three runs on seven hits in six and a third innings of work. However, he would go on to take the loss and fall to 8-4 for his final record of 2010.

Three straight hits loaded the bases for Carolina in the top of the first, but they would convert only one run out of the big opportunity against Harman. Christian Walker grounded into a double play that scored Evan Marzilli from third base for another quick 1-0 lead, but with Whit Merrifield on third base, Adrian Morales struck out to end the first.

Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to twenty-one games with a single in the first, and will have a chance to continue to add to that number against the Bruins.

Clemson would also manufacture a run to tie the score at one in the top of the third inning. Sam Dyson hit Will Lamb with one down before Mike Freeman singled to put runners on the corners.

Jeff Schaus nearly hit into a double play that would've ended the inning, but he beat the throw from Scott Wingo to first base, scoring Lamb on the play. After hitting Kyle Parker with a pitch, Dyson would strike out John Hinson to end the inning.

Christian Walker led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a shot to left, his third home run of the postseason.

A one out walk to Chris Epps the seventh would come back to bite Dyson, as he scored on Scott Wingo's throwing error off the bat of Mike Freeman.

That ended Dyson's night as he was replaced by Matt Price, who promptly gave up a single to Jeff Schaus putting men on the corners with two down.

But Price battled back against Kyle Parker, striking him out on a 1-2 fastball to preserve the 2-2 tie.

If there was one player that came up short in a big way for the Tigers it was Parker, as the first round pick of the Colorado Rockies finished the series 0-5 with three strikeouts.

With the score tied at two USC would come through with their biggest rally of the year, scoring two in the seventh to push across what would be the decisive runs.

With one out, Evan Marzilli was hit by a pitch and Alex Frederick would replace Casey Harman on the mound to pitch to Whit Merrifield.

Merrifield came into the at-bat 3-3 and needing just a home run to hit for the cycle.

"As we said from the beginning, it's nice to get to Omaha," said Merrifield on the win. "But we didn't want to just get here. We wanted to do something here. And we're in the position now to do something that this program has never accomplished before. And we know we gotta play well to beat UCLA."

But he came up short in this at-bat, striking out swinging on a full count and leaving the Gamecocks in search of a big two out hit. One batter later, he was off the hook, and USC was back in the lead.

Christian Walker came through again for USC, singling to center to score Marzilli and break the 2-2 tie. Not to be outdone, Adrian Morales knocked a single of his own to score Jackie Bradley Jr. and run the Gamecock lead to 4-2.

Clemson would quickly cut the lead to one thanks to a big defensive miscue and scary collision in right field.

On a 3-2 count, John Hinson popped a ball high up to right field that got caught by the wind, hanging and causing Whit Merrifield and Scott Wingo to collide. Merrifield would lie motionless on the turf for several moments with Hinson rounding all the way to third on the play.

He would come in to score moments later on Brad Miller's RBI groundout and tighten the game up at 4-3.

Price bounced back with a strikeout of Richie Shaffer and a lineout by Wilson Boyd to end the inning.

Unable to get a run across in the bottom of the eighth, Carolina headed to the ninth with a one run lead.

With hearts pounding and the big bats of Clemson looming, Price quickly struck out John Nester before getting Will Lamb to ground out to third.

Mike Freeman would battle, fouling off several pitches before singling to give Clemson hope with a baserunner. But their rally was over as quick as it began, with Jeff Schaus grounding out to first base on the first pitch he saw to end the game and send the Gamecocks into yet another postgame celebration.

Price's two and a third innings of relief were enough to pick up the win for the Gamecocks, their fourth straight when facing Clemson with elimination on the line in the College World Series. The Carolina closer gave up three hits and one earned run while striking out three.

"It is who we are," noted Tanner. "We battle and try to win some games the hard way and come from behind and it hasn't worked out all the time for us, but we won some big games. Now there's only two teams left."

Although it wasn't quite the dominance of the two eight-run victories of the 2002 squad over Clemson, these were enough.

Enough to send the Gamecocks to the championship series, and enough to give them one more chance to close Rosenblatt out in style.

"A couple of days ago we were down to one strike, planning a trip back home," said Tanner. "And now just a couple days later we're going to have an opportunity to play for a national championship. That's incredible."

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