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June 21, 2004

Omaha, Neb. –

South Carolina’s baseball team redeemed itself Monday with a convincing 15-4 win over SEC rival LSU in an elimination game at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Gamecocks banged out 19 hits against the Tigers, after being held to just three hits on Saturday by Cal-State Fullerton.

Aaron Rawl turned in another on of his trademark gutsy performances. The junior right-hander from Lexington, S.C., went 6 2/3 innings to pick up his 13th victory of the season. Chad Blackwell and Cliff Donald held the Tigers in check in relief.

The game had its share of bizarre plays. In the top of the 6th and Carolina trailing 3-1, the Gamecocks had the bases loaded with two outs and designated hitter Nick Gardiner at the plate. Gardiner delivered with a base hit to right field. As Kevin Mellilo ran in from second to score, the ball got away from the LSU catcher. The two players collided, Mellio got up and went back to touch home plate. The umpire called Mellilo safe, but then signaled that he was ejecting him from the game for what he viewed to be intentionally running into the catcher. USC coach Ray Tanner ran out to dispute the call. The umpires conferred and consulted with NCAA umpire in chief David Yeast. The ejection ruling was reversed and Mellilo was allowed to stay in the game. The replay on ESPN clearly indicated that was the correct call. The Gamecocks went on to score six runs in that inning, sixth runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth.

“We were able to get a quality performance from Aaron Rawl and we had some hits fall for us today,” said Coach Tanner after the game. “I was proud of how our guys battled back. LSU has an excellent team and a first-class program. They are what we are wanting to become. We are thankful to play for another day.”

The day started early once again for Coach Tanner and pitching coach Jerry Meyers. They met at 7:30 a.m. with the announce team from ESPN (Dave Barnett, Jeff Brantley and Kyle Peterson). The team appeared to be very focused during batting practice. The Gamecock fans were vocal and enthusiastic throughout the game. ESPN did close up shots of Aaron Rawl’s mother – Melissa – and Aaron’s sister – Anna. Afterwards, Aaron’s father, Odie, said “I was proud of how Aaron pitched, but his team really made it happen with 15 runs today.”

The victory seemed to be a shot in the arm for the team, which was very disappointed after losing the opener to Cal-State Fullerton on Saturday. The players planned to relax Monday night with their families and friends. Assistant coaches Meyers and Jim Toman went back to Rosenblatt Stadium to scout the Cal-State Fullerton-Miami game. Carolina is scheduled to play the loser of that game Tuesday at 7 p.m. (eastern time).

Coach Tanner was spotted in the lobby of the Hilton around 7 p.m. holding his 11-month old daughter Grace. Gamecock fans were milling around, making their dinner plans and watching the Titans-Hurricanes game on the big screen TV in the hotel lobby. Life is good. The Gamecocks live to play another day.