May 19, 2002
Athens, GA – ATHENS, GA – Demetric Smith delivered a pinch two run eighth inning double Saturday to break a tie as South Carolina defeated Georgia 4-2 to win the Gamecocks’ second Southeastern Conference baseball championship in three years.
The win gave the Gamecocks a sweep of the final three game series of the regular season and a 1 ? game edge over Alabama which was swept by Louisiana State. Alabama, the Western Division champion, began the final weekend with a 1 ? game lead over South Carolina in the overall standings. South Carolina finished with a 44-12 overall record, 21-8 in the conference. As the top seed the Gamecocks will play eighth seed Arkansas at 8 p.m., central time, Wednesday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala. South Carolina also won the SEC championship in 2000.
Blake Taylor, who leads the nation with 17 saves, entered the game with one out and two Georgia runners on base in the seventh inning and South Carolina trailing 2-1. He pitched out of that jam and two more scoreless innings to earn his fifth win of the season without a loss. Matt Woods, who shut the Gamecocks out until a pinch hit RBI single by Garris Gonce in the seventh inning was the hard luck loser. His record dropped to 2-2.
A walk, two infield outs and a single by Justin McClain in the third inning gave Georgia a 1-0 lead which the Bulldogs expanded to 2-0 with an unearned run in the sixth. Lee Mitchell reached on an error and scored on a three base wild pickoff attempt by Gamecock relief pitcher Chris Hernandez.
Justin Harris was hit by a pitch with one out in the Gamecock seventh inning. Harris moved to second on a wild pitch. Gonce, out with a knee injury suffered in the Friday game with Georgia, pinch hit for Kevin Melillo and delivered a base hit to right field to drive in Harris with the first South Carolina run.
In the eighth inning Steve Thomas reached on an error, one of four by Georgia and moved to third on a hit by Brian Buscher. Yaron Peters forced Buscher at second but Thomas scored on the play to tie the game at 2-2. Gary Bell singled.
Georgia brought in left-handed pitcher Jason Fellows from the bullpen and Smith, who had two hits in nine previous at bats this season, batted for the left-handed hitting Trey Dyson. Smith smashed a line drive in the right centerfield gap to easily score Peters and Bell and give South Carolina its first lead of the game, 4-2.
South Carolina had eight hits, four of them in the seventh and eighth innings. Georgia managed just four hits. Buscher was the only Gamecock with two hits, stretching his hitting streak to 16 games. McClain had two hits, half of the Bulldog total.
Freshman left-hander Matt Campbell started for South Carolina and allowed only one hit in five innings plus one batter. However, he walked seven. One of the two runs he allowed was unearned as the Gamecocks – the nation’s leading defensive team – committed three errors.
SOUTH CAROLINA 000 000 130 – 4-8-3
GEORGIA 001 001 000 – 2-4-4
Campbell, Hernandez (6), Taylor (7) and Powell. Woods, Fellows (8), Moorhead (8) and Sammons. W-Taylor (5-0). L-Woods (2-2). Save-None. 2B–USC, Smith; UGA, Swann.