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2012 College Baseball: Lessons Learned from South Carolina vs. Alabama

The Yardcocks kept their conference winning streak alive by sweeping Alabama.

Breaking it Down...On Thursday night it didn't look like the Gamecocks were going to have the offense to keep their winning streak alive.  In fact, after 7 innings of play South Carolina was being held without a hit.  Luckily for the Gamecocks they had Michael Roth on the mound.  And while Roth allowed some hits, he didn't allow a run.  Play was halted in the top of the 8th inning because of lightning, and the game didn't resume until the next afternoon.

As it turned out, the lightning delay was exactly the kind of divine intervention USC needed.  Tyler Webb took over for Michael Roth and worked a 1-2-3 8th inning.  In the bottom of the eighth Adam Matthews broke up the no-hitter by launching the first pitch he saw onto Williams Street outside of right field.  It was the only hit the Gamecocks got and the only one they needed.  Matt Price warmed up and then shut down Alabama to save the 1-0 win.

A little less than 2 hours after the first game ended the two teams decided to play a very different game 2.  The Gamecocks' fielding wasn't what it usually is, and the team would commit 4 error and at least 4 other defensive miscues that didn't go down on the score sheet as errors.  The Crimson Tide took full advantage of those mistakes.  They scored 4 in the first, 2 in the second and another in the third.  USC stayed within striking distance by scoring 2 in both the first and second, and another in the third.  After 3, USC trailed 7-5.  USC grabbed the lead in the bottom of the 4th with a 4 run inning on the back of Grayson Greiner's 3 run home run.  Alabama cut the lead in half by scoring a run in the 5th, and they took the lead back themselves with 2 in the 6th.  Meanwhile USC couldn't keep scoring and put zeroes up in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th innings.  To compound the problem Bama scored an insurance run int the 9th to give themselves a two run lead.

There wouldn't be another rain delay to help USC, but some rain started to fall and many of the fans took shelter under the press box and suites to stay dry.  Christian Walker kept the doubters from leaving early with a one out double.  Greiner the singled to score Walker.  T.J. Costen came in to pinch hit.  After working a 2-2 count, Costen roped a double into the left field corner to put the tying run on third and the winning run on second.  Alabama intentionally walked L.B. Dantzler to set up a force at home and the double play.  Sean Sullivan who had been a defensive replacement in the 8th strode to the plate.  Alabama brought in their closer.

Sullivan lifted the first pitch he saw to left center.  At first it didn't look like it was going to be deep enough for Greiner to tag from third.  Then all at once the crowd realized how deep the Tide outfielders had been playing, and they roared as the ball looked like it might fall.  Costen was two thirds of the way to third base, and Greiner had his foot firmly planted on third base when the ball fell.  Greiner raced home, and third base coach Chad Holbrook waved Costen around.  Maybe it was the rain that had just fallen or perhaps it was the adrenaline or maybe just luck, but for some reason the left fielder had trouble fielding the ball, and his throw was no where close as Costen crossed home for the winning run.  Final score: 12-11 Gamecocks.

On Sunday the fight had been taken out of the Crimson Tide, and the Gamecocks rolled.  USC put up a pair in the first, one in the second and third, 3 in the fourth and two more in the fifth.  Greiner and Pankake each had two hits, and everyone in the starting line up either reached base or drove someone in.  Patrick Sullivan started in place of Colby Holmes.  He thre 4 innings of 1 run baseball before making way for Nolan Belcher.  Belcher picked up the in in 3 and 1/3 innings of scoreless work.

Stars of the Series...Grayson Greiner...5-11, HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI...Christian Walker...3-6, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 5 BB...L.B. Dantzler...3-9, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI...Nolan Belcher...2 wins...3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K...Michael Roth...7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 5 K...

What to Take Away from the weekend...The first Gamecock national championship team started their NCAA tournament run with a rally after a rain delay in the first game of the regionals.  This Gamecock team rallied after a rain delay in the first game and in the ninth with the rain coming down on during game two.  Rain has been a good omen for Carolina.

This team is getting more consistent production up and down the line up.  As the freshmen continue to produce, the offense gets better.  The pitching has been strong at times, and certainly was in the first and third games.  If this team keeps improving they'll be a tough out in the tournament.

This and that...South Carolina improves to 33-11, 14-7...The Gamecocks are tied with Kentucky atop the SEC East and tied with LSU for the overall SEC lead...The Gamecocks are now ranked: 5th in Baseball America (up from 7th); 4th in Collegiate Baseball (up from 7th); 3rd in NCBWA (up from 4th); 4th in Perfect Game (up from 6th), and 3rd in the coaches' poll (up from 5th)...

Up next...The Gamecocks host Davidson on Wednesday and at The Ray.  Then they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks this weekend.  Friday night's game and Saturday afternoon's game are televised on the ESPN family of networks.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.


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