May 29, 2009

GREENVILLE, N.C. - After trailing early in the opening game of the 2009 NCAA Greenville Regional, South Carolina responded with 11 runs as part of a 17-hit effort to top George Mason, 11-3, Friday afternoon at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Three Gamecock batters recorded at least three hits in the contest while every South Carolina starter notched at least one hit. Gamecock centerfielder Whit Merrifield also produced a team-high three RBI. Gamecock starting pitcher Sam Dyson improved to 9-4 on the season, striking out five Patriot batters in seven innings of work.

Third baseman Mark Hill led the offense for George Mason, going 2-for-4 while All-America catcher Chris Henderson paced the Patriots with two RBI. Additionally, GMU starting pitcher Mike Modica suffered just his second loss of the season, falling to 11-2.

The Patriots (42-13) opened the scoring in the top of the first inning. With one out, Henderson drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch before Scott Krieger laced a single up the middle. The next batter, Justin Bour, doubled down the left field line, scoring Henderson and making the score 1-0. After hitting Ryan Soares in the next at bat, Dyson would get out of the inning, inducing a ground ball double play off of the bat of Ryan Davis.

South Carolina (39-21) put up its first base hit in the bottom of the third when Scott Wingo placed a bunt down the first base line that resulted in an infield single. He then advanced to second on a balk but was stranded as Modica recorded a pair of one-out strikeouts.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Gamecocks plated four runs on five hits and took advantage of two Patriot errors to take a 4-1 advantage. The scoring outburst was highlighted by Parker Bangs' fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot that also served as South Carolina's 100th of the campaign. The Gamecocks added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth, using a two-out, bases-loaded single that plated Bangs and Justin Dalles, who had both singled earlier in the inning.

After Nick Ebert reached on an error to begin the bottom of the sixth, Jackie Bradley, Jr. extended South Carolina's lead to 8-1 when he smashed his second home run of the season to right field. The Gamecocks nearly added to the advantage, notching consecutive singles with two outs, but Wingo grounded out to second to end the inning.

George Mason responded in its half of the seventh, using a one-out double from Henderson that plated Ryan Uphouse and Spencer Wiggins, who reached base via a single and a walk, respectively. Soares then stepped into the box with two away and runners on first and second, but struck out looking after a 13-pitch at bat. South Carolina pulled one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning, when Ebert hit a solo home run to left field for his team-high 23rd of the year. With two outs and the Gamecocks still batting, officials halted play when lightning they detected lightning in the area.

After a 78-minute delay, South Carolina tacked on two more runs on a double to left center by Andrew Crisp to provide the final 11-3 margin.

The Gamecocks advance to the winner's bracket and will take on either top-seeded East Carolina or No. 4 seed Binghamton tomorrow at 6 p.m. while the Patriots will return to the field at 2 p.m. in an elimination game.