Rolling right along: Rally lifts Gamecocks to sweep of Tigers

South Carolina plates four runs in 9th inning to score the win

nwhite@thestate.comMarch 2, 2014 

— Bluto Blutarsky once asked one of the most famous questions in movie history: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

His “Animal House” fraternity brothers ignored the historical misstep in his motivational speech, because, as one said, “He’s rolling.”

The South Carolina baseball team also refused to believe their Sunday afternoon game against rival Clemson was over, even though the third-ranked Gamecocks were down to their final out as they trailed by two runs.

But after collecting four straight hits, including a game-tying two-run single by Marcus Mooney and a game-winning two-run double by Tanner English, USC jolted the No. 11 Tigers 5-3 to finish the three-game sweep.

As for the Gamecocks – well, they’re rolling, too.

They stayed unbeaten in 10 games this season, and they’ve won 13 of the past 16 games against Clemson (6-4) dating to the 2010 College World Series.

“We’re not going to give up until that last out is called,” English said. “We’re not going to get down on ourselves, and we’re never going to have any doubt. We just go up there, play the game one pitch at a time, not get too far ahead of ourselves, and see what happens.”

English, who also had an RBI single in the fifth inning, laced his double to left field off Clate Schmidt (1-2). The Clemson reliever, who looked strong in the seventh and eighth innings, gave up a one-out single to Kyle Martin and two-out singles to Grayson Greiner and pinch-hitter Brison Celek, who was down to his final strike, to load the bases and set the stage for Mooney and English.

“We’ve been playing like that all year,” Mooney said. “We knew we could hit. Eventually, we just strung together some hits. It’s a rivalry. We’re all excited. We all want to win. We never get down on ourselves, and that’s what you’ve got to do.”

The comeback gave the Gamecocks their first sweep in the series since 2008, when they won four games over Clemson. USC coach Chad Holbrook loved what he saw from his team, which also overcame a five-run deficit in Friday’s win, in staging the rally.

“We didn’t quit. We didn’t get down in the dugout. We persevered and got some big hits when we needed them,” Holbrook said. “… Sweeps are very, very rare. We’ll take it. Our kids are resilient. They played hard, and for the most part, they played well. It’s a gritty bunch I’ve got. I’ve got some older players, and they’ve been around the block a time or two. I think that showed today.”

USC reliever Cody Mincey (2-0) tossed two shutout innings to grab the victory. He gave up two hits in the ninth before he closed the game with two strikeouts.

Clemson coach Jack Leggett was disappointed that his team let another game slip away, especially after starter Jake Long pitched 61/3 innings, and outfielders Tyler Slaton and Steven Duggar both collected three hits and an RBI on the way to a 3-1 lead entering the ninth inning.

“We played a great eight innings. I was really proud of how we played. Unfortunately, it was a nine-inning ballgame today. They did a good job piecing together the last part of the inning,” Leggett said. “You hate to lose any game. You hate to lose that game. I felt like we were in control the whole time until the last inning and felt really good about where we were.”

USC starter Wil Crowe went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits while walking none and striking out two. Those were the first runs allowed by Crowe in his collegiate career after he pitched 12 2/3 shutout innings in his first two starts of the season.

“I felt good about what I did,” Crowe said. “They got a few hits, and three guys came around. I really wasn’t worried about that. As long as we got the ‘W,’ I was happy. We just kept scrapping.”

That scrappiness resulted in a jubilant USC team streaming onto the field after the game was over.

“It’s cool. Sweeping any series, winning any game, is a good feeling,” English said. “That’s why you play the game. It’s like you’re a little kid again, and it puts a smile on your face. That escalates in a game that everyone really looks forward to all year long.”

The Gamecocks return to Carolina Stadium for a 4 p.m. game Tuesday against Stetson.

BOX SCORE: USC-Clemson, Game 3

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