June 12, 2010

BY CHARLES BENNETT
Special to NCAA.com

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C - South Carolina beat No. 4 national seed Coastal Carolina 4-3 on Saturday in a game the Gamecocks didn't so much win as survive.

The Gamecocks played their way out of two bases-loaded situations in two of the last four innings in Game 1 of the best two-of-three NCAA Division I Baseball Super Regional at BB&T Coastal Field to move one victory away from a trip to the College World Series.

"When it was over, it was a response of 'wow,'" said South Carolina coach Ray Tanner. "So much was going on in that game. It was just an incredible game."

South Carolina (47-15) and Coastal Carolina (55-9) play Game 2 at 1 p.m. Sunday (ESPN).

If the Chanticleers hope to force a third and deciding game on Monday, they'll have to do a better job of hitting with runners in scoring position.

Coastal stranded nine, and none hurt the Chanticleers more than the three they left on in the bottom of the eighth.

With the Gamecocks leading 4-3, South Carolina reliever Matt Price came on against Coastal with the bases loaded and retired the Chanticleers on two strikeouts and ground ball back to the mound.

"Obviously, the scouting report we had on Mr. Price was definitely not the Mr. Price I saw today," said Coastal coach Gary Gilmore. "I know one thing - he was throwing a lot harder than we anticipated. He was very good. He got strikeouts when he needed them."

Tanner was similarly impressed.

"For Matt Price to get out of that situation, you really have to be Houdini," he said.

Coming off the field after the eighth, the Gamecocks were fired up, but Price remained unemotional.

"I was little pumped, but I knew we had to go back out there for one more inning and get the job done," Price said.

Price did retire the Chanticleers in the ninth to earn his ninth save.

Price's performance in relief was rivaled only by the play shortstop Scott Wingo made for the Gamecocks in the sixth inning.

With the bases loaded and one out, Coastal's Daniel Bowman lined a play sharply toward the middle.

It glanced off South Carolina starter Blake Cooper's glove. Wingo was breaking toward second and had to shift back sharply for the ball. He gloved it crossing the bag and his off balance throw to first was in time for the double play.

"I don't think it took anything out of us," Bowman said. "Obviously, we kept on fighting. I hit the ball hard, but for all the places it could have gone, it went right to second base."

The Chanticleers started out in a hole.

Gilmore chose to rest his top two starting pitchers because he felt they had not sufficiently recovered physically from last week's regional.

Coastal went with a strategy of piecing things together, and it almost worked.

The Chanticleers used seven pitchers, and the only one who wasn't effective was starter Matt Rein who gave up all four of the South Carolina runs before exiting in the second inning.

Christian Walker had the big hit of the day for the Gamecocks with a two-run double in the first.

Bowman got the Chanticleers back in it with a two-run homer in the second.

It was one of the few hard shots off Cooper (12-1), who pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

"Blake Cooper pitched his heart out," Tanner said. "We couldn't have asked anything more out of him than we got today. Coastal is a great hitting team. Hopefully, we'll get another great pitching performance tomorrow."