June 24, 2010

OMAHA - The South Carolina Gamecocks outdueled the Oklahoma Sooners, 3-2, in a thrilling 12-inning contest on Thursday night at Rosenblatt Stadium before a crowd of 24,180, the largest of this year’s College World Series. South Carolina advances to face in-state foe Clemson on Friday at 8 p.m. CT in the Bracket Two finals.

    Although pitching ruled the first 11 innings, it was timely hitting that proved the difference in the final frame. The Sooners took a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the 12th thanks to a solo home run off the bat of catcher Tyler Ogle, his 11th of the season and second in as many games. But South Carolina generated a pair of runs on three singles, two coming with two outs, including the game-winning base-knock from designated hitter Brady Thomas to capture the win.

    South Carolina rightfielder Robert Beary sparked the game-winning rally with a leadoff single and promptly stole second. A strikeout and pop out put the Gamecocks down to their final out. Centerfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. worked the count full before driving a ground ball past a diving first baseman to plate Beary and tie the game at 2-2. Sooner pitcher Ryan Duke (3-2) issued a walk to the next batter, advancing Bradley to second. That’s when Thomas took the first pitch he saw and smacked a single up the middle to score Bradley for the 3-2 win.

    The game was a pitcher’s duel through 11 innings, as the teams combined for two runs on 11 hits before the 12th. Gamecock reliever Tyler Webb (3-2) tossed just one inning to pick up the win, but starter Blake Cooper set the tone with a solid performance, striking out six and giving up one earned run on four hits through 5.2 innings.

    The Oklahoma pitching staff matched South Carolina’s intensity, as starter Zach Neal went seven innings, allowing one earned run on five hits and fanning seven. Neal gave up a hit to the first batter of the game then retired 14 in a row, taking a one-hitter into the fifth. Reliever Jeremy Erben blanked the Gamecocks for four innings before exiting for Duke, who would eventually suffer the loss.

     Oklahoma put the first run on the board in the top of the second thanks to a pair of singles and a walk. After Ogle led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a walk, shortstop Caleb Bushyhead blooped a single to shallow right-center for the 1-0 lead. The Sooners continued the threat with runners at the corners and one out before South Carolina turned a double play to get out of the jam.

Gamecock catcher Kyle Enders broke up Neal’s streak of 14 straight retired with a two-out walk in the fifth and shortstop Bobby Haney followed with a double hit sharply down the rightfield line. Neal hit the next batter to load the bases, but induced a pop foul to third to end South Carolina’s threat.

Neal cruised through the sixth and seventh before the Gamecocks rallied in the eighth to tie the game at 1-1. Leftfielder Evan Marzilli led off the inning with a double off the leftfield wall, chasing Neal out of the game in favor of Erben. After a sacrifice bunt advanced Marzilli to third, first baseman Christian Walker knocked a base hit between short and third to drive in Marzilli for the tying run.

The Sooners put two on in the top of the ninth with one out, but South Carolina turned another key double play to get out of the inning and send it to extras.

Ogle led the Sooners offensively, going 2-for-3 with a pair of runs and an RBI, while Walker’s 3-for-5, one RBI performance paced the Gam