May 12, 2002
Columbia, SC – Fourth ranked South Carolina bunched all of its hits in the fourth and fifth innings Sunday to defeat Tennessee 5-3 and win a Southeastern Conference baseball series two games to one.
The Gamecocks have won eight of nine conference series this season and improved their record to 39-12 overall and 18-8 in the SEC. After non-conference games at Charleston Southern Tuesday and at home with Furman Wednesday South Carolina ends the regular season with a three game weekend conference series at Georgia.
The Gamecocks moved 1.5 games ahead of Florida in the SEC Eastern Division race as the Gators were defeated 8-5 Sunday by Louisiana State to lose that series two games to one.
Steven Bondurant, 6-3, pitched into the sixth inning to claim the win. He was relieved by Aaron Rawl after giving up a two run home run to Brandon Hopkins that cut the South Carolina lead to 5-3. Rawl retired the side and then turned the mound over to closer Blake Taylor who earned his nationally leading 16th save by pitching three shutout innings despite some anxious moments in the ninth.
Dennis Gomez, 0-1, normally the starting first baseman for Tennessee, made his first start on the mound and took the loss. He allowed six hits, five runs, four earned with two walks and five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Beau Massey held the Gamecocks hitless the final 3 1/3 innings but walked four and struck out two.
Matt Sternberg singled to lead off the final inning for Tennessee. Taylor retired the next two batters but Jordan Czarniecki walked and Nick Crowe beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Walter Sevilla grounded out to third baseman Brian Buscher to end the threat.
South Carolina took a 1-0 lead without a hit in the third inning. Landon Powell walked, moved to second on a sacrifice by Kevin Melillo who was safe on a bad throw by Tennessee pitcher Beau Massey. Powell scored on a two out error by Tennessee third baseman Sternberg.
The Gamecocks moved ahead 2-0 in the fourth inning. Garris Gonce and Buscher singled for the first hits off Gomez. Gonce scored when Justin Harris hit into a double play.
Tennessee cut it to 2-1 with a run in the top of the fifth on base hits by Sternberg and Czarniecki but the Gamecocks countered with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Singles by Melillo, Steve Thomas and Yaron Peters loaded the bases and Buscher drove in two with a base hit.
The two run homer by Hopkins in the sixth inning, his third of the season, completed the scoring for the day.
South Carolina was out hit 8-6 by Tennessee and all of the Gamecock hits were singles. The Hopkins homer was the only extra base hit of the game. Sevilla and Sternberg had two hits apiece for Tennessee and Buscher had two for South Carolina.
TENNESSEE 000 012 000 – 3-8-2
SOUTH CAROLINA 001 130 00x – 5-6-1
Gomez, Massey (5) and Bibee. Bondurant, Rawl (6), Taylor (7) and Powell. W-Bondurant (6-3). L-Gomez (0-1). Save-Taylor (16). HR-UT, Hopkins (3).