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June 9, 2002

Box Score?|? Quotes

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina coach Ray Tanner told his players as they kept making outs, “Keep the faith.”

While Miami pitchers Troy Roberson and J.D. Cockroft held the Gamecocks to four hits in eight innings, Tanner kept his team’s spirits high. He told them to block out the memories of super regional failures the past two years and forget the successful tradition Miami wears like a snug uniform.

South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner (1) and some of the players walk across the field after defeating Miami 6-4 to win the NCAA Super Regional in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky) And in the ninth inning, the Gamecocks responded with a five-run rally past the defending national champs 6-4 Sunday to win the NCAA super regional and reach the College World Series.

“I’ll tell you this,” said Tanner, his eyes red. “Our guys never shut it down.”

And now they keep playing with their first trip to Omaha, Neb., since 1985.

“You try and be the last team standing,” said Tanner, whose team will meet Georgia Tech at the CWS. “This is the last tournament and I hope we have the opportunity to be Cinderella. Somebody has to be.”

That surely was South Carolina (53-15) in this one.

The Gamecocks came in with a losing legacy, blowing game threes to Louisiana-Lafayette here two years ago and at Stanford in 2001. In the series, they had scored only three runs the previous 23 innings before their rally. But they found their stroke off closer George Huguet, the first of four pitchers Miami used in the ninth.

Yaron Peters and Brian Buscher opened with singles. Pinch hitter Trey Dyson doubled home Peters and Buscher scored when the throw in got away from second baseman Javy Rodriguez. Garris Gonce doubled off reliever Luke DeBold (1-1) to bring in pinch runner Tim Seaton and tie the game.

With two out in the inning, reliever Andrew Cohn threw a wild pitch with Drew Meyer up that brought Gonce in with the go-ahead run. Two pitches later, catcher Danny Matienzo had the ball bounce off his glove to score Harris and make it 6-4 South Carolina.

“I had faith the whole time, I knew we could do it,” said Meyer, who was picked 10th overall by Texas in Tuesday’s major league draft. “But you see the score 4-1 and think of the last two years, that’s all you could think of.”

South Carolina baseball players and fans celebrate after defeating Miami 6-4 to win the NCAA Super regional in Columbia, S.C., Sunday, June 9, 2002. Flying into the pileup on the field is David Marchbanks. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky) Miami, which scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Florida in last Sunday’s NCAA regional, tried one final comeback off reliever John Wesley (1-0).

Matienzo and Kevin Howard singled with two outs. But Seaton ran down Jim Burt’s long foul ball in right to start the celebration.

“I know a lot of these guys don’t remember Jackie Gleason, but to steal one of his lines, ‘How sweet it is,”’ said Tanner, a 14-year head coach at North Carolina State and South Carolina who vowed not to go to Omaha unless it was with his team.

Things didn’t look promising with Miami pitchers shutting the door for so long.

But it was the Hurricanes who left with heads down, wondering what went wrong. “We are really disappointed with this,” said Javy Rodriguez. “We just needed three outs and we’re going back to Omaha. But we couldn’t make it happen.”

Miami was going for its eighth College World Series in nine years. Instead, it’s the second time in the past three seasons the brackets at Rosenblatt Stadium won’t include the Hurricanes (34-29).

This wasn’t Miami’s kind of season. It lost 13 players off last year’s CWS champions and struggled to stay above .500 until mid-May. The Hurricanes were three outs from elimination a week ago at the Gainesville, Fla., regional until rallying for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to advance.

“It’s been the toughest season of my 25-year career,” said Miami coach Jim Morris. “The worst won-loss record but we’re an inning away from Omaha. That’s a credit to these players.”