June 18, 2002
By DOUG ALDEN
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. – A team from South Carolina will play in the College World Series championship game.
South Carolina beat Georgia Tech 9-5 in an elimination game Tuesday, setting up a semifinal showdown with state rival Clemson.
“If you live in South Carolina you know when South Carolina and Clemson match up, even if it’s equestrian horse racing, there’s going to be a lot on the line,” Gamecocks designated hitter Trey Dyson said. “Everybody knows about the two schools. It’s just crazy.”
Steve Thomas and Justin Harris hit home runs as the Gamecocks (55-17) avenged an 11-0 loss to Georgia Tech in the opening game and earned at least one more shot at the Tigers, who beat them three out of four times this season.
The Tigers (54-15) and Gamecocks will play Wednesday night. Clemson is unbeaten in the CWS and needs just one win to advance to Saturday’s championship, while South Carolina would need to win Wednesday and again on Friday.
Georgia Tech’s Eric Patterson is out at second base as South Carolina second baseman Kevin Melillo, right, throws to first base for a double play.
“The governor will probably have to come out and shut everything down tomorrow afternoon,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. “It’s a tremendous statement for the state of South Carolina that we’re now guaranteed that one of our teams will play in the national championship game.”
Landon Powell and Drew Meyer each drove in two runs and Aaron Rawl pitched a complete game after struggling in a brief relief appearance against Tech in the CWS opener.
“On Friday they beat me around a little bit. You’ve just got to shake that off,” Rawl said.
Rawl (7-1), who allowed three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning in the opener, allowed 14 hits, 12 of them singles. Rawl also got Tech to ground into three double plays.
“I thought he pitched pretty well. He got us to chase some bad pitches a few times,” said Wes Rynders, who had two singles for Tech. “We let him off the hook a couple of times when we had runners on base.”
The Yellow Jackets (52-16) didn’t have an extra-base hit until Jeremy Slayden’s two-run homer in the eighth made it 9-4.
Tech set a school record for wins this season, topping its 51-14 finish in 1987.
South Carolina pitcher Aaron Rawl celebrates after striking out Georgia Tech’s Jeremy Sladen in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“We hit the ball hard. I don’t think we can be disappointed in that. Overall it’s been a great season,” said Matthew Boggs, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI. “It’s just been a great experience for me, playing with all of these guys and finally making it out here.”
Matt Murton also drove in two runs for Georgia Tech, which fell behind early and could not recover for the second straight game.
The Yellow Jackets were in the elimination round after a 9-7 loss to Clemson on Sunday, with the Tigers scoring eight runs in the second inning. On Tuesday, it was South Carolina’s four-run fourth that forced Tech to try to rally.
“They kind of distanced themselves enough from us to where we couldn’t muster enough offense to get back at them,” Tech coach Danny Hall said.
Powell broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth with a two-run single, then Meyer added an RBI single with two outs and scored on a throwing error by third baseman Boggs.
Brian Burks (10-7) was lifted after Boggs’ error. He pitched 3 2-3 innings, allowing five runs and five hits.
“We only got eight hits today, but they were all pretty big,” Dyson said.
Thomas hit his 12th homer of the season in the seventh and the Gamecocks pulled away with three more in the eighth, including Harris’ homer to left that made it 9-2.
Harris was suspended for the opener after his arrest on disorderly conduct and public drunkenness charges following a win over Miami in the super regionals.