June 6, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina scored six runs in the sixth inning and held Virginia Tech scoreless over the final eight frames, earning a 10-2 victory in the championship game of the NCAA Baseball Columbia Regional on Sunday night at Carolina Stadium and securing a spot in the Super Regional for the first time since 2007.

The Gamecocks will not know their postseason destination until Monday night; Coastal Carolina defeated College of Charleston to force an if-necessary game on Monday to decide the Myrtle Beach Regional title. If the Chanticleers win again, the Gamecocks will travel to Myrtle Beach; if the Cougars win, Carolina Stadium is a potential host site for next weekend's Super Regional. South Carolina has not hosted a super regional since 2004.

South Carolina (46-15) has won 14 consecutive postseason games at home and is now 3-0 at Carolina Stadium in NCAA Tournament play. Six Gamecocks were named to the All-Tournament Team - C Kyle Enders, 3B Adrian Morales, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., OF Evan Marzilli, DH Brady Thomas and P Blake Cooper.

Virginia Tech (40-22) finished the season with its best record since 1999, when the Hokies went 42-17. The Hokies won two postseason games for only the second time in school history, defeating Bucknell on Saturday and The Citadel in Sunday's first game.

Jose Mata (7-1) pitched 4.1 innings of superb relief, allowing only two hits while striking out a career-high five batters to pick up the win. Jay Brown got the start for South Carolina, and gave up two runs on four hits while striking out and walking one apiece. For Virginia Tech, Mathew Price (7-4) was effective through five innings, but ran into big trouble in the sixth as he gave up seven runs on 11 hits while striking out three.

As has been their custom during this regional, South Carolina broke it open in the late innings. It was the eighth on Friday night, the seventh on Saturday, and the sixth in tonight's game. After Walker and Enders delivered back-to-back singles, a Haney fly ball advanced Walker to third and brought up Wingo with two out. The second baseman delivered his first RBI in a month as he drove a 2-2 pitch into right field, scoring Walker to give the Gamecocks a 3-2 lead. But they were not done - Marzilli ripped his third hit of the night (a career high) to score Enders, and Wingo came across after Merrifield delivered an RBI single of his own to make it 5-2 and end Price's night on the mound.

But a new pitcher for the Hokies would receive a rude welcome from Bradley as he roped the third pitch he saw over the right-field wall to blow the game wide open, scoring Marzilli and Merrifield to make it 8-2 and energize the Carolina Stadium crowd of 6,233.

South Carolina got big nights at the plate from several sources. Evan Marzilli had a career-high three hits in five at-bats, scoring twice and driving in a run. Christian Walker was also 3-5 with an RBI. Kyle Enders and Whit Merrifield each had two hits with Merrifield scoring twice and Enders once. Jackie Bradley Jr. drove in four runs, three of which came on a three-run homer in the sixth that extended his hitting streak to 14 games.

After South Carolina went quietly to start the game, Virginia Tech struck first. A walk to Michael Seaborn brought up Steve Domecus, who launched his 13th home run of the season to give the Hokies an early 2-0 lead. The Hokies would threaten again in the second, but Brown would fight his way through it, then work a perfect third inning to keep the Gamecocks within striking distance.

The Gamecocks got on the board in the fourth when Thomas and Walker both laced doubles, with the latter scoring the former to cut the deficit to 2-1. Walker would advance to third, but no farther as the inning ended on a groundout and a strikeout. An inning later, the Gamecocks would add another to tie the score. Scott Wingo was hit by a pitch, and Evan Marzilli singled to center to put two on with no outs for Merrifield. The junior right fielder attempted to bunt, but Price cut down the lead runner at third for the first out. Two pitches later, Price threw a pitch in the dirt that got to the backstop, advancing the runners to second and third. Bradley then hit a deep fly to center that allowed Marzilli to score the tying run.

While Mata kept Virginia Tech at bay, the Gamecocks would tack on two more runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Morales would lead off the seventh inning with a solo shot to left - his third of the regional - to make it 9-2. Then, with two on in the eighth, the Gamecocks scored on a wild play when a potential double-play ball to third got the force out at second, but the Virginia Tech shortstop dropped the ball trying to make the throw to first, allowing Merrifield to score from third and make it 10-2. Mata would then work a scoreless eighth, and Roth would shut the door in the ninth.