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May 14, 2013

Sullivan brothers lead USC over Blue Hose



VIDEO: Chase Vergason, Sean Sullivan


They haven't played together for their entire careers, but for the past two seasons, the brothers Sullivan have worn South Carolina uniforms. Never two that played a lot, not often where either made the difference toward winning, Patrick and Sean Sullivan have enjoyed playing for the team they grew up loving, after dad John Sullivan played at USC and was an assistant coach there as well.

Fitting that each would find a way to heavily factor into the No. 14 Gamecocks' regular-season home finale on Tuesday, won by USC 4-3 over Presbyterian.

Patrick Sullivan (2-0) picked up the win with 1 2-3 innings of one-hit, one-run relief where he struck out three, and Sean Sullivan started the game-winning rally and made a sensational diving catch for the first out in the ninth inning as USC (38-14) completed a 28-6 home regular season. The Gamecocks, as they have done for the past five games, took control early, were pushed against the wall and immediately responded, with two runs in the seventh immediately after the Blue Hose (24-29) tied the game in the top of the frame.

"I was just trying to get a leadoff walk," said Sean Sullivan, who replaced TJ Costen in right field and worked that leadoff walk in the seventh. "Pat came in, pounded the zone. He did his job. That's what we expect out of him."

Sean's walk turned into Tanner English's bunt single, and Dante Rosenberg's sacrifice bunt loaded the bases when it was thrown to third to try and get Sullivan and was too late. That brought up leadoff hitter Graham Saiko, who gave USC the lead with a sacrifice fly, and Chase Vergason mimicked Saiko with another fly ball to make it 4-2.

Patrick Sullivan, who struck out two-hole hitter Aaron Preston with the go-ahead run on second base in the seventh, then worked a 1-2-3 eighth with two more Ks. He came out for the ninth, but departed after giving up a leadoff double and going 2-0 to the next batter; closer Tyler Webb came on for his SEC-leading 15th save, and tied Matt Price for the most career appearances at USC (102).

A solid win and a good springboard into another key series, one that will determine USC's seeding for the looming SEC tournament and may play into the Gamecocks' continuing quest for a national top-eight seed. Once again, USC got contributions from everybody, be it a decent outing from starter Forrest Koumas and an OK showing from Joel Seddon, with a great two innings from Evan Beal; or two RBIs from Vergason and two first-pitch hits from Rosenberg.

But the Sullivans shined the brightest. Patrick Sullivan had a little more bite on his pitches as he shut Presbyterian down in the eighth, and Sean Sullivan started the game-winning rally. When his brother left the game in the ninth and Cam McRae lined a shot to right, Sullivan sprinted, laid out and saved Webb some work.

"One of those balls, I didn't want to get caught in between," Sean said. "It's kind of easier to lay out sometimes and get it to eye level so you can catch it. I was able to get it in and Webb did the rest."

The two seniors, Patrick having been around since 2009 but redshirting that year and Sean coming in last season after transferring from Winthrop, are each integral parts of the team. Patrick was voted one of the team's three captains before the season, and Sean, after winning a few games last year with late-inning bloop hits, is looked upon as a captain.

"Patrick is a great captain," coach Chad Holbrook said. "Sean's not a captain, but he's a captain. Every person on our team will tell you that. They're both special kids, incredible students. Sean's going to be a lawyer. Patrick's going to be a doctor. They're what's right about college athletics. Those two kids are as good of teammates as I've been around. They love this university and they love this baseball program."

The two enjoyed producing in front of their home crowd, and look forward to doing it again.

"It means a lot," Sean said. "We grew up here our whole lives, and I think we're both pretty good team guys. We just want to win. That's all we care about. (Patrick's) been a big force here for five years, I guess, and I just came last year. He's helped me kind of integrate into the Gamecock culture and I've been very appreciative of what he's done for me while I've been here."

"I've been real happy for Sean, everything that he's been able to contribute this year, getting all those game-winning hits last year, just being a part of this program after my dad played here and coached here," Patrick said. "It's been big, a big family thing. Hopefully we got a couple of more games left and finish off the year good."

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