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March 29, 2014

Gore's walk-off gives South Carolina 3-2 victory

No. 2 South Carolina's series opener against No. 22 Tennessee seemed from the start it could come down to one swing, and freshman second baseman Jordan Gore delivered it to give the Gamecocks the 3-2 win Saturday afternoon.

Gore strode to the plate with one out in the bottom of the 14th inning and roped the second pitch he saw into the right field bullpen for a walk-off solo home run, his first career homer.

South Carolina (22-3, 4-3 SEC) and Tennessee (19-5, 3-4 SEC) were 2 1/2 innings into the resumption of their Friday night contest, which was halted just before the 12th inning because of rain.

It was Gore's first at-bat of the game. The freshman had come in at second base to replace Brison Celek, who pinch-hit for DC Arendas in the bottom of the 11th inning Friday night.

Sophomore Jack Wyknoop got the win in three innings of shutout work Saturday. The left-hander struck out two and scattered three hits to improve to 5-1 on the season. He will start on the mound for South Carolina in the second game Saturday as well.

The teams played 11 innings of mostly deadlocked baseball Friday night, only to have the game postponed before either side could seal the victory.

The Gamecocks and Volunteers were tied at 2-2 at the start of the 12th inning when rain began coming down in sheets, sending fans to the stadium concourse and the grounds crew to retrieve a tarp to cover the infield.

At midnight, roughly 15 minutes after the delay began, officials decided to postpone the game until 4 p.m. Saturday.

Tennessee plated the first run when junior left fielder Elliott Caldwell dropped a two-out fly ball with runners on the corners in the fourth inning.

The Gamecocks would answer with a run of their own in the sixth inning. Joey Pankake slapped a two-out single into right-center field to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. With Kyle Martin at the plate a batter later, South Carolina executed a perfect hit-and-run.

Pankake was three-quarters of the way to second base when Martin drilled Tennessee right-hander Nick Williams' payoff pitch to the wall in left-center for a standup double. Pankake would score with ease to tie the game at 1-1.

The Volunteers manufactured a run in the top of the eighth to take a 2-1 lead. USC starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery issued a four-pitch walk to the first batter of the inning, Will Maddox, before being pulled in favor of junior reliever Cody Mincey.

Mincey hit Tennessee leadoff man Scott Price with his first pitch, then A.J. Simcox executed a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Christin Stewart followed with a sacrifice fly to the right field warning track to score Maddox from third.

The run was credited to Montgomery, who fanned five batters and gave up four hits, two walks and both of Tennessee's runs in his seven-inning outing.

But the Gamecocks tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Tanner English reached base on a bunt single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then moved to third when Joey Pankake grounded out to Tennessee second baseman Will Maddox.

English showcased his speed again when he sprinted home on a passed ball to even the score.

Tennessee put the go-ahead run on base in the top of the ninth when Mincey gave up a two-out single to Taylor Smart. But junior closer Joel Seddon entered the game and slammed the door on the threat, getting Tennessee catcher David Houser to fly out on his second pitch.

Seddon's heroics continued into the extra innings. Tennessee loaded the bases with one out in the tenth, but the junior navigated out of the jam, striking out Volunteer cleanup man Nick Senzel before getting Vincent Jackson to ground out to Marcus Mooney for an inning-ending fielder's choice.

Seddon struck out two batters while retiring the side in the top of the 11th, and was warming up on the mound before the top of the 12th when the rain started to come down.

South Carolina will start sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop (4-1, 1.98 ERA) on the mound for the second game Saturday, while Tennessee will start freshman right-hander Hunter Martin (2-1, 0.98 ERA).

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