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June 23, 2004

Omaha, Neb. –

South Carolina’s baseball team won its third straight do or die game Wednesday with a 5-3 victory over Cal-State Fullerton at the 2004 College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Gamecocks rode the pitching of Jason Fletcher and Chad Blackwell, who scattered five hits, to force another game Thursday evening against the Titans. The winner advances to the national championship series against the Texas Longhorns.

The day began with a familiar routine for Coach Ray Tanner and Assistant Coach Jerry Meyers, as they traveled with Andrew Kitick and Kerry Tharp of the USC Sports Information Office to the Embassy Suites for an 8:30 a.m. meeting with ESPN’s broadcast team. Coach Tanner said he thought his team needed to swing the bats well against Cal-State and hoped for a solid performance from Fletcher. As it turned out, the Gamecock coach got what he wished for.

South Carolina had the good fortune of playing in front of the largest crowd ever at the CWS – 28,614. It also marked the third largest crowd to ever see a college baseball game.

South Carolina’s fans were enthusiastic and supportive throughout the game. It appeared as if 700-800 Gamecock fans were in attendance. Many local fans from Omaha seemed to have adopted Carolina as their favorite team. ESPN featured many of the players’ girlfriends during their broadcast, including Allison Davies, girlfriend of catcher Landon Powell; and Lauren King, a diver on the USC swim team who dates second baseman Kevin Melillo. Allison, a USC student who is interning this summer for Fox Sports Net in Atlanta, was also interviewed by ESPN Radio Omaha prior to the game. Her grandfather is Bob Davies, who starred for the Rochester Royals in the NBA, while her father is Bo Davies, who was a standout defensive back for the Gamecock football team.

The atmosphere at Rosenblatt Stadium is unique. While the game is in progress, there are beach balls being batted about in the outfield seats. USC centerfielder Davy Gregg says you need to keep focused on the action in front of you because there is also a lot going on behind you during the game. “Those fans are really getting into it,” said Gregg, who had a key bunt during the game. “Those beach balls are always coming out into the field and the fans are really having a big time.”

Over the past three games, USC has knocked off the likes of LSU, Miami and Cal-State Fullerton, which can be described as a “who’s who” in college baseball. Those programs have won multiple national championships and are all considered to be among the elite in the sport.

Relief pitcher Chad Blackwell picked up is nation-leading 20th save Wednesday evening. In three innings, Blackwell did not allow a hit or a run. Afterwards, the sinewy 150-pounder had his right arm encompassed with ice. He claims he could be available if called upon Thursday.

For the fifth straight game, USC will be showcased on national television. ESPN’s Mike Patrick and Harold Reynolds will bring the action Thursday night. There is no way that one can put a price tag on the quality of positive exposure USC’s run in the College World Series has brought to the University.

Starting pitcher Jason Fletcher said following the game that once he was informed Tuesday evening that he would be the starter, he called everyone he knew and told them to make sure they were watching Wednesday night. What they saw was a very determined young man who gave great effort and put USC in a position to win.

USC expects to give junior left hander Matthew Campbell the ball for Thursday’s game. Campbell was the losing pitcher in the opening game vs. Cal-State Fullerton. One more win and the Gamecocks will be playing for the title. Stay tuned