May 25, 2002
BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – Steve Thomas belted a three-run homer in the fifth inning and freshman RHP Aaron Rawl pitched a career-high eight innings as second ranked South Carolina held on to defeat LSU 5-4 in the SEC Baseball Tournament. The win moves South Carolina’s record to 48-13 on the season and the Gamecocks will play in the school’s first championship game at the SEC Baseball Tournament vs. Alabama. The championship game is set for 4 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FOX Sports Net South and SEC-TV.
Aaron Rawl earned the win for the Gamecocks to improve to 5-1 on the season, striking out a career-high eight batters and allowing only four runs on eight hits. Senior RHP Blake Taylor came in to earn his nation-leading 19th save of the season, tying him with Lee Gronkiewicz for saves in a season at Carolina. Gronkiewicz set the record last season for Carolina. Bo Petitt went the distance for LSU with his record falling to 8-7 on the year.
LSU came close to stealing the game from the Gamecocks in the ninth inning. Rawl walked David Raymer to open the inning and Chris Phillips singled to right field to put two runners on base with no outs. After Taylor entered, J.C. Holt knocked an infield single in between first and second to load the bases. With the sacks full, Aaron Hill and Wally Pontiff each walked to bring the Tigers within one run. With the bases still loaded, Sean Barker hit a roller to Drew Meyer who went to tag second base. As Meyer went to tag second, Pontiff did not slide into the base interfering with Meyer who also threw to first base. Second base umpire Ken Couch ruled runners interference on Pontiff ruling both him and Barker out, and sending the runners on second and third back to their base with two outs. After intentionally walking Matt Heath, Taylor was able to get Blake Gill to ground out to preserve the Gamecock victory.
LSU put the first run on the scoreboard in the game in the third inning. With two outs the Tigers got their first two hits off Rawl, putting together back-to-back doubles by J.C. Holt and Aaron Hill giving LSU the 1-0 lead.
The Gamecocks finally got to Petit in the fifth inning. Landon Powell opened up the frame with a single up the middle. Pinch hitter Kevin Melillo went for the sacrifice bunt down the third base line. LSU third baseman Wally Pontiff looked to nab Powell out at second but proceeded to throw the ball into the outfield to put runners at the corners with no outs. Petitt was able to retire Drew Meyer on a strike out bringing Thomas to the plate. With a 1-1 count, Thomas belted a home run to left field to give the Gamecocks a 3-1 lead.
LSU cut the deficit to one run in the top of the sixth inning. Matt Heath reached base with one out on an error at second base by Melillo. After a Blake Gill single advanced Heath to second base, Jon Zeringue delivered a RBI single to center scoring Heath.
South Carolina increased its lead to 5-2 in the seventh inning as Drew Meyer knocked a triple to score Melillo. Meyer would score on a wild pitch by Petit to increase the Gamecock lead to 5-2. With the triple, Meyer became the single-season hit leader at South Carolina with 105 hits on the season. The previous record was 104 set by Mike Curry in 1998.
South Carolina third baseman Brian Buscher extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a double in the first inning. The Gamecock record for consecutive games with a hit is 25 by Greg Keatley in 1976. Michael Floyd hit safely in 23 games in the 2001 season for South Carolina.