May 25, 2005
Columbia, S.C. - Sixth seed South Carolina backed the strong pitching of Aaron Rawl with an 18 hit attack Wednesday to upset third seed Tennessee 12-2 and advance in the winner's bracket of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament.
The win was the second upset of the day as seventh seed Mississippi State defeated second seed Louisiana State 9-2 to open the tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. South Carolina and Mississippi State will meet in second round action scheduled for 5 p.m., Central time, Thursday. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks did not meet during the regular season.
South Carolina, which managed only 19 hits in losing all three regular season games at Tennessee less than three weeks ago, was just one short of that total Wednesday with the second highest hit total against an SEC team this season. Carolina had 19 hits in a win over Georgia April 2. The 18 hits for Carolina was also the largest single game total in the SEC Tournament by a Gamecock team in school history.
Rawl survived a shaky first inning in which he gave up two runs on three hits to shut Tennessee out over the final eight innings with third out help from reliever Brent Marsh in the ninth inning. Senior right-hander Rawl registered is 35th career win, third on South Carolina's all time list and improved his 2005 mark to 9-5.
South Carolina improved its season record to 38-19 while Tennessee dropped to 39-18. The Vols will play LSU Thursday in a loser's bracket elimination game. Chris Howell, 1-4, started for Tennessee Wednesday and was charged with the loss. He allowed 11 hits and seven runs, six earned, in five innings.
Three consecutive one out first inning hits -- singles by Eli Iorg and J. P. Arencibia and a double by Chase Headley -- gave Tennessee a 2-0 lead but Rawl then held the Vols hitless until back to back two out singles in the seventh inning by Alex Saurez and Josh Alley.
In the bottom of the ninth inning Rawl retired the first two batters but Tennessee then loaded the bases on singles by Rob Fitzgerald, Surez, and Alley. Marsh relieved and struck out Daniel Beasley on three pitches to end the game.
South Carolina took a 4-2 second inning lead on five hits, including doubles by Giesler and Tommy King. The Gamecocks had eight doubles in the game, two each by Giesler, King and Pearce, and one by Steven Tolleson and Brendan Winn.
King's second double drove in a fifth inning run and Carolina added two in the sixth on two hits, including a Pearce double.
Pearce hit a three run home run in the four run Gamecock seventh inning. It was his 19th of the season and 40th in a two year career. Pearce is the first Gamecock to hit 40 home runs over a two season span and the eighth player in USC history.
Pearce finished the game with four hits and two walks for a perfect day at the plate and a nine game hitting streak. He drove in four runs. Giesler, who stretched his streak to nine games, was four for five with two doubles and two singles.
Michael Campbell also has a nine game streak. He was two for six Wednesday. Davy Gregg had three hits, including two bunt singles. Tolleson contributed two hits. Campbell, Tolleson, Chris Brown and King drove in two runs.
The Gamecocks will start senior RHP Zac McCamie (8-3, 3.18 ERA) while the Bulldogs will counter with senior RHP Todd Doolittle (4-7, 4.26 ERA).
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