May 31, 2009

Courtesy of South Carolina Athletics

Greenville, N.C. - South Carolina mounted a late rally with four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning with the potential tying run on second base but East Carolina reliever Seth Simmons was able to get the final two outs of the game to lift the Pirates to an 8-6 win over South Carolina on Sunday evening at Clark-LeClair Stadium. East Carolina tallied three home runs that produced all eight runs scored and received a quality start from freshman left-hander Kevin Brandt setting up one final game on Monday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium to determine the winner of the Greenville Regional. East Carolina is now 45-18 on the year with South Carolina now 40-22 for the season. Monday evening's game will start at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Gamecock Radio Network and at GamecocksOnline.com.

Trailing 8-2 entering the ninth inning, the Gamecocks mounted a rally as Jackie Bradley, Jr. led off with a single and Justin Dalles crushed a two-run homer with one out to bring South Carolina within four runs. In came closer Seth Simmons for the Pirates but the Gamecocks weren't done there as Andrew Crisp kept the rally alive with a single followed by a bunt base hit from Adam Matthews. South Carolina then loaded the bases as Bobby Haney reached base on an infield single in the hole between shortstop and third base. Head coach Ray Tanner kept pulling the strings then as pinch hitter Brady Thomas delivered with a two-run double down the right field line to score Crisp and Matthews and bringing the potential go ahead run to the plate. Simmons dug deep though for ECU and was able to coax Whit Merrifield into a foul ball pop up to first baseman Brandon Henderson for the second out. With pitcher Steven Neff the next scheduled batter, the Gamecock sent up pinch hitter Jeffery Jones for the next at-bat. On a 2-1 pitch Jones flied out to short center field to end the game and send the Regional into Monday evening.

East Carolina starting pitcher Kevin Brandt picked up the win after going 8.1 innings and allowing four runs on nine hits with four strikeouts. He is 9-1 for the year. South Carolina starter Nolan Belcher suffered the loss and is now 4-5 for the season. He allowed eight runs on nine hits with six strikeouts and three walks.

"I was really proud of our guys making a run there at the end to put some pressure on East Carolina," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "I really felt the key to the game was a great start by Kevin Brandt. He pitched a heck of a game. He was very special and he did a heck of a job. They played outstanding defense behind Brandt, too. We had some pretty good at bats but they played tremendous defense, (2B) Ryan Wood and (1B) Brandon Henderson especially. We had a mulligan and now we used it. We have to come out and play very good tomorrow."

ECU grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the first inning on the back of a three-run homer by Kyle Roller. Trent Whitehead opened the game with a double down the right field line that took a big hop over first baseman Nick Ebert. Ryan Wood would also reach base as a short pop up to left center went off the glove of shortstop Bobby Haney for a base hit. With one out and runners on first and second, Roller drilled the first pitch he saw over the right centerfield wall. It was Roller's 16th home run of the season and his third on the day as he two in the previous game vs. Binghamton.

The Pirates' second home run of the day increased the lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning. On Belcher's 1-1 pitch, Dustin Harrington went to the opposite field with a solo homer to right. The round tripper was Harrington's 14th of the season.

ECU wasn't without solid defense either as right fielder Devin Harris robbed Gamecock designated hitter Adam Matthews of a home run as he jumped and nabbed a long fly ball that would have cleared the fence in right field if it had not been for a great catch to end the fifth inning.

Brandt, at one point, had retired 11 batters in a row before a Bobby Haney single in the bottom of the sixth inning. Brandt would get two key outs after that hit though as he induced Scott Wingo into a 1-6-3 double play to keep the Gamecocks out of scoring position. The double play proved key as Whit Merrifield singled in the next at bat but with two outs and no runners on base.

Brandon Henderson then gave East Carolina insurance in the top of the seventh inning with a grand slam home run to increase the advantage to 8-0 for the Pirates. Ryan Wood doubled with one out, Stephen Batts walked and Kyle Roller was hit by pitch to set the stage for Henderson. Hitless in three previous plate appearances, Henderson corked one down the left field line on Belcher's first pitch for his 12th home run of the year.

"The three-run blast early on by (Kyle) Roller was a tremendous shot," said Coach Tanner. "He had a great day. The grand slam then kind of opened it up for them."

South Carolina would get to Brandt in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jackie Bradley, Jr. reached base with a single as did Justin Dalles. With one out and runners on second and third base, Andrew Crisp drove a double down the right field line to score both runners and bring the Gamecocks within six runs. For Crisp, it was his team-leading 23rd double that ties him with Landon Powell (2003) and Drew Meyer (2002) for third highest in a single season at South Carolina.

South Carolina finished with a 13-10 hit advantage despite the loss. Dalles was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Bradley, Crisp and Haney also tallied two hits apiece. Wood, Roller and Jared Avchen had two hits apiece for East Carolina.