March 18, 2006
Columbia, S.C. - Ninth ranked South Carolina scored four runs in the top of the 12th inning and behind three scorless innings of relief from Wynn Pelzer earned a 12-8 victory over Auburn in the SEC opener for both teams. It was a wild night at Plainsman Park and a seesaw contest that saw Auburn twice rally against the Gamecocks in the ninth and 10th innings and USC tying a school record for strikeouts in a game with 18 on the night. USC is 16-2 and 1-0 in the conference with Auburn falling to 10-11 and 0-1 in the SEC.
Pelzer, who came on in relief in the 10th inning allowed no runs and no hits while striking out six batters to earn the win. He is 1-0 on the season. Peter Wiggins suffered the loss for Auburn and is 3-1 this year.
It was a tight game early with both teams scoring very little against both starting pitchers. Arik Hempy worked five innings and allowed two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts and Chris Dennis went the same allowing one run on four hits.
Things began to get interesting in the top of the seventh inning. Trailing by one run, Carolina rallied to take a one-run lead. Mark Stanley led off with a double and with one out, Chris Brown knocked a RBI single up the middle to score Stanley and advanced to second base on the throw. Brown would then reach third on a failed pickoff attempt by Tiger relief pitcher Bryan Woodall. That set the stage for Robbie Grinestaff, who launched a deep two-out fly ball to left center that was dropped on the run by center fielder Bruce Edwards allowing Brown to score the go ahead run.
USC put together some more runs in the eighth inning and extended its lead to 5-2. Singles from freshmen Justin Smoak and Reese Havens put runners on the corners to open the frame. Havens would score on a RBI single from Trent Kline. Smoak would take advantage of a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt from Mark Stanley to score the second run of the inning and give Carolina a three-run edge.
After scoring one run in the bottom of the eighth inning, Auburn would tie the game in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Carolina closer Shawn Valdes-Fauli. With runners on first and second base and two outs, Andy Bennett knocked a 0-2 pitch off the right centerfield wall scoring both Bruce Edwards and Josh Donaldson and tying the game at five apiece. With the possible winning run on second base, USC right-hander Conor Lalor came on in relief and was able to get the third out and preserve the 5-5 tie.
The dramatics continued in the 10th inning as both teams scored three runs to match the score at eight. USC scored its runs in the top of the frame with two-out bases loaded walks to Neil Giesler and Robbie Grinestaff along with a wild pitch from Wiggins.
Despite a three-run deficit, Auburn came back in the bottom half to tie the game at eight apiece. The Tigers began the frame with three straight walks from Lalor and relief pitcher Brandon Todd to lead off the inning to Justin Bristow, Ben Jones and Edwards. The Tigers then clawed to within one run on RBI singles from Tyler Johnstone and Russell Dixon. With no outs and the bases loaded, in came Carolina reliever Wynn Pelzer who got the first out on a popped foul ball to catcher Trent Kline. With an 0-2 count to Derek Sain, Pelzer's third pitch went off Kline's glove allowing Edwards to score to on a passed ball and advancing the winning run to third base. Pelzer showed strong composure in the situation though as he struck out Sain on the next pitch and was able to get the third out on a strikeout to Mike Bianucci.
After a scoreless 11th inning, USC went ahead for good in the top of the 12th inning. Chris Brown hit a one-out double and advanced to third base on a ground out to Neil Giesler. With two outs and a 1-2 pitch, Robbie Grinestaff sliced a double down the left field line to score Brown. USC would take advantage of an error and also receive RBI singles from Michael Campbell, Reese Havens and Trent Kline giving Pelzer a four-run cushion for the bottom of the inning. Pelzer retired the side in order giving the Gamecocks a dramatic 12-8 victory.
Kline, who entered the game in the sixth inning, went 3-for-3 with Brown and Campbell also contributing three hits to lead the 17-hit attack for Carolina. Havens and Giesler also had two hits for the Gamecocks. Josh Donaldson had a home run and three hits for Auburn with Russell Dixon and Justin Bristow also tallying two apiece.
The two teams continue the three-game set on Saturday with first pitch set for 5 p.m. ET. The game will be televised live on CSS-TV with Andy Burcham and Hal Baird calling the action. The game can also be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network with Mike Morgan and Tom Price. Flagship stations in Columbia are 103.1 FM and 1320 AM. Live audio broadcast and live gametracker stats are available at uscsports.com as well. Freshman RHP Mike Cisco (1-0, 0.00 ERA) takes the hill for Carolina with Auburn sending sophomore RHP Brett Butts (2-3, 4.33 ERA) to the hill.
- Michael Campbell moved ahead of Derick Urquhart (1995-98) into fifth place on the USC All-Time List for games played. Campbell has now played in 218 career games with the Gamecocks.
- Neil Giesler extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his single in the first inning. Giesler now has hit safely in 15 of 16 games played and owns 10 multi-hit games on the year. Justin Smoak also extended his hitting streak to six games.
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