Gamecocks write two wild endings

USC evades no-hitter in delayed game, then turns Tide in 9th

nwhite@thestate.comApril 27, 2012 

The South Carolina baseball team avoided a no-hitter to start the day and staged a miracle rally to end it.

Adam Matthews drilled a home run on the first pitch the Gamecocks saw Friday afternoon at Carolina Stadium to break up the Crimson Tide’s no-hitter in the eighth inning and propel USC to a 1-0 victory in the completion to Thursday night’s game that was suspended by bad weather.

The regularly scheduled nightcap was a different affair, as the Gamecocks pounded out a 12-11 win with three runs in the ninth inning capped by Sean Sullivan’s bloop single. And when the day ended, No. 7 USC (32-11, 13-7 SEC) found a way to extend its conference win streak to 10 games.

The two heroes joked on their way to the media room about the improbabilities.

“We’ve played baseball for a long time and really never seen two games like that, especially on one day,” Sullivan said. “I think it really showed the identity of the team is starting to come around. We’re competitive to the end. We want to win. We want to fight. It came down to who was going to throw the last punch, and fortunately for us, we got two Ws today.”

The Gamecocks got RBI singles from Grayson Greiner and Sullivan in the ninth, with the winning run scoring when Alabama left-fielder Hunter Gregory couldn’t field Sullivan’s single cleanly. They also got big homers from Matthews, Christian Walker and Greiner, as the Tide (17-27, 6-14 SEC) couldn’t hold its 11-9 lead in the bottom of the ninth.

“Baseball is a great game and some days it completely humbles you and will devastate you,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “And other times you just keep playing. You get 27 outs and good things can happen. It was our day for something good to happen. We get one hit in Game I and we win a game we’re staring a no-hitter in the face. It’s just crazy.”

It took 18 minutes for USC to finish the game suspended Thursday night in the top of the eighth inning by bad weather. Alabama freshman right-hander Spencer Turnbull pitched seven no-hit innings Thursday, but Matthews greeted reliever Jon Keller, the losing pitcher in both games, with a long opposite-field homer to right field when the senior outfielder led off the eighth.

Matthews was determined to get USC into the hit column in order for the team to avoid being no-hit for the first time since Northwestern’s Brad Myers accomplished the feat in 1990.

“Obviously, we all knew what was up for grabs today,” Matthews said. “All you can do in that situation is go out there and get your hacks. You can’t be too worried about that. You just have to see what you can make happen.”

Left-hander Tyler Webb (4-0) pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief of Thursday starter Michael Roth to record the win, and closer Matt Price did the same in the ninth to pick up his fifth save.

The junior right-hander set a career school record for appearances with 89 when he entered the game, and his save against the Tide (17-26, 6-13 SEC) upped his school-record career total to 35. Price broke the mark held by Rob Mosser (1990-93) and helped the USC pitching staff collect its fourth shutout of the season.

In the second game, the Gamecocks overcame a 7-5 deficit with four runs in the fourth, but Alabama battled back to go up 11-9 with a single run in the ninth. USC reliever Nolan Belcher recorded the final out of the ninth and picked up the win with the USC rally, which started with Walker’s double, Greiner’s RBI single, T.J. Costen’s double, LB and Dantzler’s intentional walk before Sullivan delivered his big single with the infield playing in.

“I couldn’t have thrown that ball in there better than that, but I’ll take it. A win’s a win, and I’m really happy right now,” said Sullivam, who also delivered game-winning singles against Clemson and Mississippi State this season.

“He has tremendous enthusiasm and passion to play,” said Tanner of Sullivan, a transfer from Winthrop. “Whether he got a hit or not in that situation, that’s baseball. But you’ve got the right guy up there and the approach is going to be good. He has come up big a couple of times for us. It was great to see that ball go down.”

The series concludes at 1:30 Saturday. USC will start either freshman right-hander Joel Seddon (1-0) or junior right-hander Patrick Sullivan (0-0) in place of injured right-hander Colby Holmes, who strained his shoulder in a non-throwing injury Wednesday.

The Gamecocks, who have won five straight SEC series, are gunning for their third straight weekend sweep.

“It just shows our competitive nature and how we’re finally turning it around a little bit,” Matthews said.

BOX SCORE: USC-Alabama Game 2

BOX SCORE: USC-Alabama Game 1

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