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June 1, 2014

Gamecocks beat Camels, stay alive

USC postgame, Wil Crowe and Chad Holbrook

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Facing elimination, No. 1 seed South Carolina used a four-run fourth inning and superb outing from freshman Wil Crowe to defeat the Camels of Campbell 5-0 at Carolina Stadium Sunday and set the stage for another elimination game tonight against unbeaten Maryland.

USC would have to beat Maryland twice, beginning tonight and again tomorrow at 7 p.m., to advance to the Super Regional Round. Maryland can win the regional with a victory tonight.

With the season on the line, Crowe threw a complete-game, four-hit shutout in the first loser's bracket game USC ever has played at Carolina Stadium. He walked none, struck out four and threw just 101 pitches in an outing USC coach Chad Holbrook ranked among the best he's seen in Columbia.

"Obviously, Wil's performance today was as good as any starting pitching performance I've seen here at Carolina Stadium in a while, and we've had some good ones," Holbrook said. "With our backs up against the wall, throwing 101 pitches, efficient, he looked like a big leaguer out there. He didn't lose his velocity; he's a horse and he wants the ball in his hand. It was neat to see him perform like that.

"It was an incredible performance by Wil. It was as efficient as I've seen him since he's been here with his command. Fastball, breaking ball, changeups, he was in total control out there. It was a masterful performance by him. To go nine innings, we obviously needed that.

"The circumstances we're in, coming out out of the loser's bracket, not only was it an encouraging performance but it now it gives us a better opportunity in the game tonight because we could rest our bullpen."

The complete-game shutout was the first of Crowe's career and the first for a Gamecock pitcher since Jordan Montgomery shut out North Carolina in last year's Chapel Hill Super Regional. It was the first postseason complete-game shutout since Brian Williams threw a two-hitter against Georgia Tech in 1988.

Crowe said he was excited about the opportunity to help his team in a critical situation.

"I was trying to throw strikes and help us win as much as I could, keep command of my fastball and get my other pitches over for strikes," said Crowe, who improved his record to 8-3 on the year, pushed the Gamecocks' overall record to 44-17 and, most importantly, saved the season for one more game and gave the staff much-needed rest.

"I knew that we needed a good outing and that I needed to go deep in the game especially because if we win, we have a game tonight."

Offensively, Max Schrock led the way for the Gamecocks, going 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI, all through the fourth inning when he was lifted to rest for tonight's game. Tanner English also had two hits with an RBI, and every USC player reached base.

In the top of the first inning the game took a turn for the bizarre with a 12-minute delay on an "unintentional backswing" call that the officials had to leave the field to research before returning with a decision that was initially appealed by Campbell but later dropped.

After order was restored, the game resumed and remained scoreless until the Gamecocks got a two-out bases-empty double from Max Schrock in the third followed by an RBI single up the middle from Joey Pankake.

An inning later USC broke through with a four-run fourth that put the game out of reach. Grayson Greiner led off with a strong single to left, his first hit of the regional, followed by a walk to DC Arendas. Showing bunt, Connor Bright pulled back and slapped a double to left, scoring Greiner and putting Arendas at third. Gene Cone walked to load the bases with no out, prompting a pitching change by Campbell.

Facing reliever Bobby Thorson, Tanner English broke out of his slump and spanked a single to left, scoring Greiner to make it a 3-0 game. A 1-2-3 double play from Marcus Mooney followed, but two more runs scored when Schrock doubled to right on a ball the right fielder dove for but couldn't come up with, scoring English and Cone and providing Crowe and the Gamecocks with a 5-0 lead.

"We had some really good at bats there in the fourth inning," Holbrook said. "It t was a good offensive performance for the most part.

The score held until the ninth, when USC added four more runs on RBI singles from Jordan Gore, who relieved Schrock, Pankake, Kyle Martin and Brison Celek to lead 9-0.

For the Campbell Camels, who ended the season 41-21, Crowe was simply too much to overcome.

"I was hoping the atmosphere and stuff for a freshman would be overwhelming," Campbell head coach Greg Goff said. "But from the first pitch, he was in command."

Whether South Carolina can get back in command of a regional it lost control of Saturday remains to be seen, though Holbrook hopes so.

"You either play well and try to win the next game or put the uniforms up," Holbrook said. "I hope our guys don't want to do that yet.

"We've got our hands full tonight against a really good Maryland team, we're playing at home and if we find a way to win tonight all things are even and we'll have a championship here tomorrow night.

"We're trying to dig ourselves out of a hole. If we can get this one tonight, I'll feel like we're out of the hole."

Holbrook said he wasn't sure who he would throw in tonight's game up until he had to turn his lineup card in at 6:05 p.m. Game time is at 7 p.m.

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