South Carolina Rallies Late Again to Beat The Citadel, 9-4
June 6, 2010
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Blake Cooper struck out a career-high 12 batters, and South Carolina put together a late-inning rally to defeat cross-state rival The Citadel 9-4 in a winner's bracket game of the NCAA Baseball Columbia Regional on Saturday. The Carolina Stadium crowd of 7,418 was treated to a spectacular pitchers' duel through six innings before the Gamecocks exploded for seven runs over their final three at-bats.
Cooper (11-1) stymied the Bulldog hitters through 7.1 innings, hitting double-digits in strikeouts for the second time in his career and holding the Bulldogs to four runs, none of which were earned, on six hits while walking three. Citadel ace righthander Asher Wojciechowski (12-3) was equally impressive until late in the game, striking out 11 Gamecock hitters in 6.2 innings of work before giving up five runs in the seventh inning to be charged with the loss. Matt Price picked up his eighth save, tossing 1.1 innings of shutout ball to preserve the Carolina win.
Fans for both teams expected a pitcher's duel. And both hurlers delivered on that expectation through the first six innings. Cooper had 10 K's through 4 innings en route to his career-high. Wojciechowski, meanwhile, notched the 300th strikeout of his career in the second inning when he retired Gamecock shortstop Bobby Haney. At 155 strikeouts for the season, the Bulldog righthander leads the nation in that category.
However, offense came in bunches for South Carolina in the late innings. The Gamecocks scored five in the seventh and another two in the ninth to overcome a 4-2 deficit and win in come-from-behind fashion for the second-straight night. And no Gamecock has been more productive at the plate in the postseason than Adrian Morales. The junior went 3-for-4 tonight with a home run and three RBI to go along with an almost identical line from Friday night. For the Columbia Regional, Morales is 6-for-9 with two homers and six RBIs. Brady Thomas, Christian Walker and Kyle Enders each had a pair of hits for the Gamecocks, with Enders hitting his second home run of the season.
Citadel second baseman Bryan Altman delivered the bulk of the Bulldog offense with a 3-for-3 night that included a home run and three RBI. Kyle Jordan delivered the other RBI for the Bulldogs, going 2-for-4.
The Gamecocks would strike first in the second inning. After Thomas led off with a base hit and moved up to second on a wild pitch, Enders hit a towering fly ball that just cleared the left-field wall to bring in a pair of runs and give South a 2-0 lead. It was Enders' second home run of the season; his other came on May 2 against Alabama.
Aside from that, Wojciechowski continued to mow down hitters, posting six strikeouts through the first three innings. Cooper mostly matched him pitch-for-pitch, at one point striking out six of seven batters. Cooper, though, would find a bit of trouble in the fourth. A strikeout of leadoff hitter Matt Simonelli would go for naught as he advanced to first on a passed ball. A batter later, Cooper would hit Altman to put runners on first and second with no out. Following a strikeout of Justin Mackert, Jordan would line one through the left side to plate Simonelli and cut the Citadel deficit to 2-1.
A big error would come back to haunt South Carolina in the fifth. After Cooper retired the first two batters, he got Brad Felder to chase a pitch in the dirt for strike three. But Enders' throw sailed wide of first base, allowing Felder to keep the inning alive. Simonelli then hit one back through the box for a base hit to put runners at first and second, paving the way for Altman to smack his 14th home run of the season over the left-field wall to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 advantage.
South Carolina finally got to Wojciechowski in the seventh inning.The 8-9 hitters, Bobby Haney and Scott Wingo, led off the inning with a pair of singles. Whit Merrifield struck out after two failed bunt attempts, and coach Ray Tanner elected to go with left-handed pinch-hitter Evan Marzilli, who had delivered a two-run home run on Friday night against Bucknell. The freshman came through in a big way, lacing a base hit to right field to plate Haney and Wingo, tying the game at 4-4. Then, with two out, Thomas singled up the middle, moving Marzilli to third. Thomas would then try to force a balk by taking off early from first, but Wojciechowski never flinched as the Carolina catcher took second without a throw.
Clearly rattled at that point, a subsequent Wojciechowski pitch slipped out of his hand and sailed to the backstop, allowing Marzilli to score from third to give Carolina a 5-4 lead. Morales delivered an RBI double into the right-field corner, scoring Thomas to make it 6-4 Gamecocks and chasing the Citadel ace from the game. Walker then ripped another double into the gap in left center to bring home Morales, making it 7-4 Gamecocks.
The Citadel, however, would not go away. With Cooper's pitch count well into the 100s, Altman singled and Jordan walked to end Cooper's night after 7.1 strong innings. Jordan would then welcome Price to the game with a single to left, but Altman held at third to load the bases with one out. That decision would prove to be costly, though, as David Greene grounded right back to Price to start an inning-ending, 1-2-3 double play.
A mental mistake in the ninth would cost the Bulldogs two more runs. With Bradley at first and one out, Thomas grounded sharply to second base for what looked to be a certain inning-ending double play. But the Citadel shortstop did not make the throw to first, thinking the force at second was the third out and allowing Thomas to reach on a fielder's choice. Morales, the next hitter, would blast a 2-0 offering into the left-field stands for his second home run of the regional, boosting the Gamecock lead to 9-4. Price would then retire the Bulldogs in order in the ninth to pick up the save.
The Citadel will play Virginia Tech in an elimination game at 2 p.m. on Sunday, with the winner slated to face South Carolina at 7 p.m. Approximately 2,500 tickets remain (more than 1,000 bleacher/reserved seats; 1,500 standing room only) for Sunday's championship game, and the Carolina Stadium ticket office opens at 12:30 p.m.
For the most complete coverage of the NCAA Baseball Columbia Regional, visit GamecocksOnline.com.