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February 17, 2013
Trailing by seven runs and down to its final six outs, things looked bleak for South Carolina in the first game of a doubleheader against Liberty on Sunday at Carolina Stadium.
Insert haunting laugh track here.
Taking advantage of some shaky pitching by the Liberty bullpen, USC scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth and five more in the ninth to stun the Flames 8-7 before a delirious crowd on a chilly day in Columbia.
USC improved to 2-0 with its second one-run victory win over the Flames, clinching the series win on the opening weekend of the college baseball season.
In the ninth, two Liberty relievers walked four of the first five USC batters, allowing two runs to score and putting the tying run on base.
Freshman Max Schrock drove in the third run of the inning with an unassisted grounder to first. After Joey Pankake was walked intentionally and LB Dantzler struck out swinging for the second out, USC coach Chad Holbrook turned to pinch-hitter Kyle Martin.
Martin was ahead 3-1 in the count when he rifled a line drive back to the Liberty pitcher. The ball ricocheted off his leg towards the plate as pinch-runner Shon Carson raced home with the tying run.
Liberty catcher Trey Wimmer grabbed the ball and fired a throw to first, but the ball skipped away from first baseman Alex Close as Graham Saiko, playing his second game in a USC uniform, strode home with the winning run as the stunned Liberty players left the field, knowing they had a let a road win over a major program slip through their grasp.
The ninth-inning rally handed the win to left-hander Adam Westmoreland, who worked the final 2 1-3 innings, retiring the final seven hitters in the process.
USC starter Colby Holmes allowed two runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings and would have been a hard-luck loser without the late-inning outburst.
Holmes had little trouble in the early innings, setting down the first nine Liberty batters, seven by strikeout, ground-out or pop-up.
Seemingly out of nowhere, things unraveled in the top of the fourth for the senior from Conway. The first three batters reached base, with a pair of walks sandwiching a single.
After a visit to the mound by pitching coach Jerry Meyers, Holmes fell behind the next Liberty batter 3-0, but recovered to induce a double-play grounder to second as the first run of the game scored from third.
Holmes escaped the inning with a fly-out to right-center, and must have walked back to the dugout thankful that only one run had scored.
After yielding the single and walk in the opening frame, Liberty mowed down 12 straight Gamecock batters until Tanner English walked with two outs in the fifth.
After another walk to Chase Vergason to put a runner in scoring position, Saiko's hard grounder towards the middle was gobbled up by the Liberty second baseman, who flipped to the shortstop for the inning-ending force-out.
Despite a pitching change for Liberty in the sixth, USC's hitters continued to struggle as new pitcher Matt Marsh, a hard-throwing right-hander, fanned two batters en route to a perfect inning.
English prevented Liberty from taking a two-run lead in the top of the seventh when he gunned down a Flames runner at the plate on a single to center for his second spectacular defensive play in two innings.
However, that outstanding throw was followed by two walks, a sacrifice fly, a hit-by-pitch, a costly error by Pankake that allowed a run to score, a bases-clearing double off the left-field wall and a run-scoring bloop single.
The uprising off three different USC pitchers gave Liberty a stunning 7-0 lead.
Needing a lot of runs in a hurry, the Gamecocks finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth with three runs. After the bases become loaded on two singles and a hit batter, Schrock delivered the second RBI of his career with a ground-out to first.
Pankake followed with a sacrifice fly to right before Dantzler drove in the final run of the inning with single into right.
Schrock's first career hit in the bottom of the first - a single to right field - led to a scoring threat for USC, but Erik Payne grounded into a fielder's choice with runners at first and second to end the inning.
Two innings later, Schrock was robbed of extra bases by Liberty right fielder Nick Paxton, who made a leaping catch as he crashed into the wall to loudly end the third.
HOW THE RUNS SCORED
LIB 4th - Paxton walked, Cordell singled to center, Aanderud walked, Close grounded into 4-6-3 double play (run scored), Grauer flied to center. ONE RUN, ONE HIT (LIB 1-0).
LIB 7th - Close reached second on throwing error (E5), Grauer singled to center (Close thrown out at plate 8-2), (WYNKOOP FOR HOLMES), Britt walked, (SEDDON FOR WYNKOOP), Wimmer walked, Taormina hit sacrifice fly to center (RBI), Lacik hit by pitch, (WESTMORELAND FOR SEDDON), Paxton reached on fielding error (E6)(run scores), Cordell doubled to left (3 RBI), Aanderud singled to center (RBI), Close grounded to third. SIX RUNS, 3 HITS (LIB 7-0).
USC 8th - English singled to right, Vergason hit by pitch, Saiko singled to left, Schrock grounded to first (RBI), (Perritt for Marsh), Pankake hits sacrifice fly to center (RBI), Dantzler singles to right (RBI), Bright grounded to third. THREE RUNS, THREE HITS (LIB 7-3).
USC 9th - Costen walked, Rosenberg singled to right, English walked, Vergason walked (RBI), Saiko walked (RBI), Schrock grounded to first (RBI), Pankake walked, Dantzler struckout, Martin singled off pitcher (RBI) and winning run scores on throwing error (E2). FIVE RUNS, TWO HITS. GAME OVER. (USC 8-7).
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