Thanks to a healthy portion of late inning domination over its most bitter rival, South Carolina has ascended to the No. 1 spot in a major college baseball poll.
USC outscored Clemson, 13-2, from the sixth through ninth innings during the three-game sweep, a late-game surge beginning Friday night when two runs in the bottom of the sixth gave the Gamecocks the lead for good and propelled USC to a 9-6 win.
The following afternoon, USC scored five runs in the top of the ninth to pull away for a 10-2 win at Fluor Field, an outburst that only set the stage for one of the Gamecocks' most pulsating wins in recent memory on Sunday.
Trailing 3-1 entering the top of the ninth at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, USC stunned the Clemson home crowd by scoring four runs with two outs. The gripping 5-3 victory kept the Gamecocks perfect at 10-0 heading into a busy week with five games scheduled beginning Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the opener of a two-game home series against Stetson.
Collegiate Baseball pushed USC to No. 1 in the country ahead of Virginia and Florida State, while the Gamecocks remained at No. 3 in Baseball America's weekly poll.
USC's sensational bullpen tandem of setup man Cody Mincey and closer Joel Seddon continues to dominate opponents. Seddon recorded a pair of saves in the Clemson series, working a perfect ninth inning in the 9-6 win on Friday night with a pair of strikeouts.
Because Mincey was unable to pitch on Saturday after throwing 52 pitches in 2.2 IP on Friday night, Seddon hurled three scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts in the 10-2 win in Greenville.
Sunday, Mincey was credited with his second career win, throwing two scoreless innings in USC's stunning 5-3 comeback win. Mincey allowed two hits and fanned three Clemson batters, retiring the Tigers in order in the bottom of the ninth to complete the weekend sweep after USC's four-run outburst with two outs in the top of the ninth had given the Gamecocks the lead.
Mincey and Seddon's combined statistics after three weekends are off-the-charts spectacular: 16.2 IP, no runs, four hits, 27 strikeouts, four walks in 13 appearances.
Perhaps USC's most improved pitcher, Seddon has not allowed a hit or a run in six relief appearances this year. He has three saves and 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings pitched.
"It's all confidence," USC catcher Grayson Greiner said recently. "He's been my roommate for three years. There is a different aura around him this year than there has been in the past. Catching him, I can tell when he gets the ball that he's going to get the job done. In the past, he was hoping to get the job done. Confidence is the main thing."
Mincey, a JUCO transfer from Hartsville and Spartanburg Methodist, picked up a pair of wins in relief on Friday and Sunday. Mincey has not allowed a run in a team-high seven appearances with just four hits allowed and 16 strikeouts in 9.0 IP.
USC's bullpen did not allow a run in the Clemson series as Mincey, Seddon and Vince Fiori pitched nine scoreless innings of relief with just four hits allowed and three walks while striking out 11 batters.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Joel Seddon and Cody Mincey
LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 3-0
OVERALL RECORD: 10-0 (0-0 SEC)
NATIONAL RANKINGS: No. 3 in Baseball America, No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball, No. 4 in Perfect Game USA.
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:
Feb. 28 vs. Clemson, W 9-6
Mar. 1 vs. Clemson, W 10-2 (at Greenville)
Mar. 2 at Clemson, W 5-3
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE:
Mar. 4 vs. Stetson, 4 p.m.
Mar. 5 vs. Stetson, 4 p.m.
Mar. 7 vs. Brown, 7 p.m.
Mar. 8 vs. Brown, 4 p.m.
Mar. 9 vs. Brown, 12:30 p.m.
(All Times Eastern)
-- Outfielder Connor Bright has hit safely in all 10 games this season and owns an 11-game hitting streak dating back to last year. Bright hit .500 (6-for-12) in the Clemson series with two RBI and two runs scored. Bright is hitting .462 (18-for-39) through the first 10 games with nine runs scored and 13 RBI.
-- Jack Wynkoop is USC's first three-game winner and carries a 3-0 record and 1.96 ERA in 18.1 IP with a team-high 19 strikeouts and just three walks.
-- First baseman Kyle Martin continues to lead the Gamecocks in hitting with a .472 average (17-for-36) on the year. Martin has 10 RBI. He went 2-for-4 in each of the first two games against Clemson and now has a team-high six multi-hit games.
-- All three games this past weekend were played in front of sellout crowds. Friday night's game in Columbia was watched by 8,242, the second sellout of the season at Carolina Stadium.
-- Greiner won the Tom Price award as South Carolina's MVP in the Clemson series. Greiner hit .400 (4-for-10) during the sweep with four runs scored. His grand slam homer on Friday helped lift USC to a come-from-behind 9-6 win.
-- Freshman starter Wil Crowe started Sunday's game at Clemson and pitching on the biggest stage of his brief career, allowed three runs on eight hits in 6.2 IP. Crowe is 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA in a team-high 19.1 IP. He has 12 strikeouts compared to two walks with 12 hits allowed. Opponents are hitting .185 against him.
-- Shortstop Marcus Mooney, Tanner English and Greiner led USC with five RBI apiece in the weekend sweep over Clemson. Mooney's clutch two-out single in the ninth inning of Sunday's 5-3 win tied the game until English's two-run double to left-center scored the winning runs.
-- USC is hitting .313 (106-for-339) for the season with a .412 team on-base percentage and a .457 slugging percentage. The Gamecocks have a .981 team fielding percentage with seven errors in 363 chances. They did not commit an error in Sunday's win over Clemson.