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March 16, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – Ninth ranked South Carolina (15-2) and Auburn (10-10) open up SEC play this weekend with a three-game series beginning on Friday, Mar. 17 with first pitch set for 8 p.m. ET at Plainsman Park. Saturday’s game is at 5 p.m. ET and will be televised on CSS-TV with the Sunday finale at 2 p.m. ET. Live audio broadcast and live stats available at Mike Morgan and Tom Price will call the action on the Gamecock Radio Network for all three games. Flagship stations are 103.1 FM and 1320 AM in Columbia.

South Carolina leads the series history with Auburn, 23-14, including a series victory last year vs. the Tigers at Sarge Frye Field. After Auburn took the opening game 4-1, the Gamecocks came back to win Saturday with a 3-2 victory and held on for an 8-7 win on Sunday. USC has won the last six series played between the two schools, dating back to 1998. Carolina last visited the Plains in 2004 when USC also took two of three games.

South Carolina: Arik Hempy, LHP, Jr. (1-1, 3.18 ERA, 17 IP, 23 K, 6 BB)
Auburn: Chris Dennis, RHP, Jr. (1-1, 3.74 ERA, 21.2 IP, 14 K, 10 BB)

South Carolina: Mike Cisco, RHP, Fr. (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 13.2 IP, 14 K, 2 BB)
Auburn: Brett Butts, RHP, So. (2-3, 4.33 ERA, 27.0 IP, 14 K, 8 BB)

South Carolina: Forrest Beverly, LHP, Jr. (4-0, 3.04 ERA, 26.2 IP, 25 K, 1 BB)
Auburn: Evan Crawford, LHP, Fr. (1-3, 5.09 ERA, 23.0 IP, 19 K, 11 BB)

South Carolina went 6-0 in its latest homestand including a pair of wins in midweek games this week over Davidson (9-2) and Yale (8-2). Carolina owns a 15-2 record on the year with all 15 victories coming at home at Sarge Frye Field.

South Carolina remained at No. 9 in both this week’s Baseball America Top 25 and Collegiate Baseball Top 30. USC also stayed at No. 11 in the Sports Weekly poll and moved up to No. 12 in the NCBWA Top 30.

Senior INF Neil Giesler has been swinging a hot bat for Carolina. Giesler owns a 10-game hitting streak, has hit safely in 14 of 15 games played with nine multi-hit games to lead Carolina on the year. He currently leads the SEC with a .500 batting average (29-for-58) and has two HR and 14 RBI to go along with a fielding percentage of .966 in 15 starts at third base.

Giesler had an outstanding week at the plate last week batting .588 (10-for-17) including three doubles, five RBI and five runs scored to help lead Carolina to four wins. His four-hit total tied his career-high in an 8-1 win over William & Mary.

Also contributing at the plate for Carolina is junior DH Robbie Grinestaff. Grinestaff tied a USC single-game record with four walks vs. William & Mary and went 5-for-10 with three RBI in the weekend series vs. Quinnipiac. On the year, Grinestaff is batting .203 (17-for-58) with five HR and 19 RBI. His home run total is tied for third highest in the SEC.

Before coming to Carolina, both Neil Giesler and Robbie Grinestaff were teammates in 2004 at Okaloosa-Walton JC in Florida. Giesler is in his second year with the Gamecocks with Grinestaff in his first season as a member of the garnet & black.

Freshman 1B Justin Smoak hit .308 (4-for-13) against Quinnipiac including a HR and four RBI. Smoak is batting .293 (17-for-58) this year with three HR and 17 RBI. Smoak has been on base a lot as he leads the team with 14 walks and owns an on-base percentage of .438.

The Carolina newcomer had his best weekend at the plate of his young career vs. Duquesne. Smoak went 3-for-3 with two doubles, one homer and five RBI in the 12-4 win. He became the first USC player this season to have multiple doubles in a game and tied a USC individual high on the year with four runs scored and five RBI in the victory. Smoak had reached base seven consecutive times heading into the Clemson series with five hits and two walks.

Senior catcher Ian Paxton had a career-high three hits including his second HR of the year in Sunday’s win over Quinnipiac. Paxton has started five games behind the plate and played in 10 overall with a .412 batting average (7-for-17).

Freshman RHP Mike Cisco extended his scoreless inning streak this season to 13.2 innings with five scoreless innings in his second career start as Carolina defeated Quinnipiac 12-0 on Saturday. Cisco picked up his first career victory in the win. He has struck out 14 batters and allowed just two walks and seven hits, opponents are hitting only .159 against him.

Junior LHP Arik Hempy earned his first win of the year in last Friday’s 10-4 win over the Bobcats. Hempy went 5.2 innings allowing four runs on four this with nine strikeouts, his second highest career total. Hempy is 1-1 on the year with a 3.18 ERA to go along with 23 strikeouts and six walks in 17 innings pitched.

Junior LHP Forrest Beverly improved to 4-0 earning the win in Sunday’s game over Quinnipiac. Beverly limited Quinnipiac to one run on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks in six innings pitched. Beverly has hurled a team-high 26.2 innings and struck out 25 batters with only one walk and 23 hits allowed. Beverly has started five consecutive Sunday’s for the Gamecocks.

Senior RHP Shawn Valdes-Fauli made his team-high seventh appearance in Wednesday’s win over Yale and worked one scoreless inning with one strikeout. Valdes-Fauli has pitched 8.1 scoreless innings of relief for Carolina this year and has allowed just three hits. He is 1-0 on the year with three saves out of the bullpen.

Sophomore RHP Andrew Cruse continued his success on the mound this weekend vs. Quinnipiac. Fresh off 5.2 scoreless innings vs. Clemson last week, Cruse made one appearance this week and hurled 2.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one hit and one walk allowed in the Friday night win. Cruse is 2-0 this year with a 0.57 ERA and 18 strikeouts and two walks allowed in 15.2 innings.

He was the SEC Pitcher of the Week following his performance vs. Clemson. It marked Cruse’s longest outing of his career at USC. He also struck out a career-high seven batters and yielded just one walk and three hits.

Under pitching coach Mark Calvi, the Carolina pitching staff continues to post strong numbers. USC owns a 15-2 record with a 1.93 team ERA. In 154 innings pitched, the staff has allowed just 37 runs on 100 hits with 172 strikeouts and 36 walks allowed. Last Saturday’s 12-0 win marked the fourth shutout of the year for the staff. Opponents are batting just .184 against the Gamecocks this year. USC struck out a season-high 15 batters last week vs. William & Mary.

Drew Martin, a junior at Carolina, has been a strong pinch hitter in the early going for head coach Ray Tanner. Martin has been batting .545 (6-for-11) off the bench for USC in nine games with a HR and six RBI. He hit his first career HR in Sunday’s win over Quinnipiac.

Senior OF Michael Campbell continues to move up the charts on USC Career Lists. Campbell moved past Dave Willman (1989-92) for seventh on the USC All-Time hits list. Campbell now has 236 career hits at Carolina and is nine short of Hank Small (1972-75) for sixth place.

In addition, his assist from the outfield in the win over Clemson set a new Carolina school record for assists by an outfielder with 21 in his career. Campbell bests the previous record of 20 set by Paul Hollins (1978-81). Campbell has two assists from the outfield this year.

The iron man at Carolina, Campbell has now made 196 consecutive starts in the outfield going back to his freshman season.

Campbell is the most experienced player in Division I baseball with 217 games under his belt. Campbell is the leading returner for Carolina in several offensive categories including batting average (.315), games played (64), at-bats (251), runs (56), hits (79), doubles (16), triples (5), home runs (8), runs batted in (42), slugging percentage (.514), hit by pitch (10) and stolen bases (8).

TRACKING Michael CampbellGames Played1.  251 Landon Powell 2001-02-03-042.  236 Mac White   1991-92-93-943.  223 Jeff Parnell    1990-91-92-934.  221 Trey Dyson   1999-00-01-025.  217 Derick Urquhart 1995-96-97-985.  217 Michael Campbell   2003-04-05-06
At Bats1. 903 Mac White 1991-92-93-942. 866 Landon Powell 2001-02-03-043. 864 Drew Meyer 2000-01-024. 799 Derick Urquhart 1995-96-97-985. 797 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
Hits (200 or more)1. 303 Mac White 1991-92-93-942. 285 Drew Meyer 2000-01-023. 265 Landon Powell 2001-02-03-044. 265 Derick Urquhart 1995-96-97-985. 250 Mike Curry 1996-97-986. 245 Hank Small 1972-73-74-757. 236 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
One Base Hits1. 209 Drew Meyer 2000-01-022. 198 Mac White 1991-92-93-943. 172 Greg Jonson 1977-78-79-804. 171 Derick Urquhart 1995-96-97-985. 165 Dave Willman 1989-90-91-926. 162 Mike Curry 1996-97-987. 159 Landon Powell 2001-02-03-048. 156 Skeets Thomas 1988-89-908. 156 Hank Small 1972-73-74-7510. 155 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
Three Base Hits1. 12 Mac White 1991-92-93-941. 12 Bill Harley 1930-31-323. 11 Mike Curry 1996-97-984. 10 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06

Carolina was stellar defensively with two more error-less games this past week vs. William & Mary and Quinnipiac. The Gamecocks are fielding an SEC-best .981 on the year.

South Carolina took two of three games last season from Auburn in a late April SEC series in Columbia. After falling 4-1 in the series opener, USC clawed back to win the Saturday game 3-2 and held on for an 8-7 victory on Sunday vs. the Tigers.

FRIDAY (Auburn 4, South Carolina 1)
Josh Donaldson contributed a double and two solo home runs to an eight hit attack as Auburn defeated South Carolina 4-1 in the series opener. Three Auburn pitchers combined to limit South Carolina to five hits, all singles, with Arnold Hughey working 6.1 shutout innings. Hughey allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five. John Madden came on in relief and allowed just one a hit and a run in 1.2 innings and Michael Nix worked a three out ninth inning to record his 11th save of the season.

Aaron Rawl pitched eight innings for South Carolina and gave up six hits and all four runs, only three of them earned. Rawl walked one and struck out a career high 12 batters.

Auburn scored single runs in the first, second, fourth and sixth innings while South Carolina managed its only run in the eighth inning. The Tigers scored an unearned run in the first on a Gamecock error and singles by Josh Bell and Jeff Boutwell, the second hit driving in the run. In the second, Donaldson doubled and scored on a hit by Adam Stacey. Donaldson homered in the third and sixth innings to complete the Auburn scoring. The homers were the third and fourth of the season by Donaldson.

SATURDAY (South Carolina 3, Auburn 2)
In the second game of the series, Michael Campbell’s two out ninth inning single scored Tommy King with the tying run Saturday and Joey Friddle crossed with the game winner when a throw by Auburn right fielder Clete Thomas eluded catcher Josh Bell and South Carolina’s 3-2 victory evened a Southeastern Conference baseball series at one game apiece.

South Carolina, which has not had an extra base hit in the first two games of the series, had only three hits going into the ninth inning when King delivered a two out single and Friddle walked on a three balls and two strikes count.

Campbell, who had a first inning single, slashed a line drive to right field for the Winchester, Va., junior’s 200th career hit. Thomas attempted to beat the tying run to the plate but his throw rolled to the back stop and Friddle scored the second run of the inning.

SUNDAY (South Carolina 8, Auburn 7)
In the series finale, Brendan Winn drove in two runs with a homer and a double and threw two runners out at the plate from right field as South Carolina survived a ninth inning Auburn rally to win 8-7 and take the Southeastern Conference baseball series two games to one.

South Carolina collected 16 hits Sunday against five Auburn pitchers. The barrage included five doubles and three home runs.

Winn doubled to drive in a run in the fourth inning and hit his 10th homer of the season in the fifth, but it was his defensive plays that probably saved the victory for South Carolina. Auburn had runners at second and third with one out in the top of the fourth inning. Josh Donaldson lifted a fly to Winn and he gunned down Jeff Boutwell attempting to score after the catch. In the fifth inning Winn threw out Adam Stacey attempting to score from second base on a hit by Josh Bell.

South Carolina built an 8-2 lead until Auburn narrowed the deficit to 8-5 with three runs in the eighth inning. With one out in the ninth Gamecock shortstop Steven Tolleson dropped a high pop up by pinch hitter Joey Husking for a two base error. With two outs Clete Thomas homered over the center field batter’s back drop but Brent Marsh struck out Bell and earned his 10th save of the season.

Jason Fletcher pitched the first five innings for South Carolina and got the win.