May 30, 2009

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Homers, complete game highlight Gamecock win

By Phil Stanton Co-Founder

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Hits vs. timely hits.


Both teams had double-figure hits, but South Carolina had the timely hits in its 12-2 victory over host East Carolina in front of 4,595 at Clark-LeClair Stadium.


The Pirates (43-18) will face Binghamton at 2 p.m. Sunday in an elimination game. The teams met in the day’s first game, with ECU prevailing 11-7. The winner will meet the Gamecocks (40-21) at 6 p.m. and must beat USC twice to win the regional.


“We were very fortunate to be able to win tonight,” USC head coach Ray Tanner said. “East Carolina, as we all know, has a potent offense and they had runners everywhere early in the game.”


South Carolina scored single runs in the first two innings. Whit Merrifield led off the game with a single to extend his hit streak to 12 and scored on a groundout by Jackie Bradley, Jr. Adam Matthews went deep in the second for his fourth home run to give the Gamecocks a 2-0 advantage.


ECU had numerous base runners but stranded 12, all in the first five innings.


The Gamecocks added three in the sixth. With a runner on first and one out, Justin Dalles stepped out, stepped back in and hit a homer to left center to make it 4-0.


“I asked for time and I actually took my right hand off the bat,” Dalles said. “[The umpire] didn’t give me time. I stepped back a little bit but not out of the box and he threw a pitch in the zone and it looked pretty good. I put a swing on it and there it went.”


Matthews doubled and scored later in the inning on a single by Bobby Haney to push the lead to 5-0.


Dalles added an RBI base hit in the seventh to stretch it to 6-0. USC blew the game open with six in the eighth, highlighted by a Matthews homer and a Dalles grand slam.


Dalles finished 4 for 5 with two long balls and a career-high seven RBI. Matthews also went deep twice with three RBI and a career-best four hits.


Blake Cooper (9-4) (right) dodged the bullets early by the Pirates, going the distance for the third time this season. He scattered 14 hits with two walks and six strikeouts.


“He was just making good pitches at big times in the game,” ECU second baseman Ryan Wood said. “You have to give a lot of credit to him. He made a lot of good pitches tonight. I don’t think you can go through our lineup like he did and not do that.”


“You’ve got to give Blake a tremendous amount of credit for pitching out of some pickles,” Tanner said. “He’s a cagey veteran. Justin came up with a couple big at-bats and Adam Matthews, getting an opportunity to play tonight, came up big as well. We were very fortunate. We had some big hits and we played a very nice game against them.”


ECU avoided the shutout on a pinch-hit two-run homer in the eighth by Corey Thompson, his first career round-tripper. It was the only extra-base hit out of 14 for the Pirates.


“It has certainly been a long day and that’s not the way I wanted it to end,” ECU head coach Billy Godwin said. “I think I’ve used this line before, but somebody told me that you have to lose two games to be out and we haven’t done that yet.”


South Carolina reached 40 wins for the 10th straight season.


(photo by Jimmy Jones)