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April 27, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – The 12th ranked South Carolina baseball team (30-11, 11-7 SEC) returns home for a three-game series against 17th ranked Mississippi State (29-13, 8-9 SEC) beginning Friday night (April 28) at 7 pm. Saturday’s first pitch is 4 pm with Sunday’s finale set for a 1:30 start at Sarge Frye Field.

Carolina and Mississippi State meet in a three-game series for the first time since the 2003 season. South Carolina plays 10 SEC series a year and rotates a Western Division team off its season schedule every two years. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs did meet in 2005 though at the SEC Tournament, where MSU defeated Carolina 6-2 on its way to an SEC Tournament title.

South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner and Mississippi State head coach Ron Polk both served on the same staff in 1996 with USA Baseball. Tanner and Polk worked under head coach Skip Bertman on the 1996 Olympic team that earned a Bronze Medal at the Atlanta Olympics. Polk currently is in his 27th year as head coach at Mississippi State and his 33th year overall as a head coach.

The Bulldogs returned seven of eight position starters from last year’s team including the current SEC leader in hitting, senior shortstop Thomas Berkery, who leads the league with a .420 batting average as of Monday, April 24.

Both the Bulldogs and Gamecocks owned No. 1 rankings in the months of March and April. Carolina enters the weekend tied for first place in the SEC Eastern Division with an 11-7 conference mark, just two games behind Alabama for the overall lead. Mississippi State sits in fourth place in the SEC West with an 8-9 record.

The series between the two schools is tied 20-20 and the games have always been very tight over the last few seasons. Dating back to the last game of the 1998 series, there have been 14 one-run games in the last 21 contests including three one-run games in the 2003 series played in Columbia. USC won the first two games that year, 4-3 and 2-1 victories, with MSU earning a 2-1 win in the Sunday game.

South Carolina: Wynn Pelzer, RHP, Jr. (3-1, 1.39 ERA, 32.1 IP, 36 K, 19 BB)
Mississippi State: Aaron Weatherford, RHP, Fr. (4-0, 1.33 ERA, 27 IP, 31 K, 3 BB)

South Carolina: Mike Cisco, RHP, Fr. (5-0, 3.42 ERA, 50 IP, 44 K, 12 BB)
Mississippi State: TBA

South Carolina: Will Atwood, LHP, Fr. (3-0, 3.29 ERA, 27.1 IP, 18 K, 4 BB)
Mississippi State: TBA

A pair of brothers will meet on the field this weekend for the Gamecocks and Bulldogs. South Carolina junior RHP Conor Lalor and MSU sophomore RHP John Lalor will reunite this weekend at Sarge Frye Field.

South Carolina dropped from the Top 10 in all four collegiate baseball rankings for the first time since February 20. Carolina is ranked as high as No. 12 in the Sports Weekly/ESPN coaches poll. The NCBWA lists USC at No. 13 with Baseball America rating the Gamecocks No. 14 and Collegiate Baseball selecting Carolina No. 19 this week.

South Carolina had its toughest weekend of the season losing all three games at Kentucky with each contest also decided by three runs or less. Carolina rallied from a seven-run deficit on Friday night (April 21) before falling 10-9 to the Wildcats in 11 innings. Saturday and Sunday saw the Gamecocks lose six-run leads on its way to 15-12 and 12-9 losses.

Carolina had one of its better weekends hitting-wise, as the team finished the three games batting .342 with 30 runs scored and 41 hits. Carolina, however, did not pitch or field as it had in the past few weeks as the defense committed eight errors in three games and the pitching staff allowed 37 runs on 33 hits and 25 walks.

When James Brown’s song “The Boss” hits the speakers at Sarge Frye Field, it means only one thing, sophomore RHP Wynn Pelzer is entering the game. Pelzer has factored in all seven of his SEC appearances this year, each in relief, and owns a 3-1 record with three saves. He has pitched 19 innings but saw his conference scoreless inning streak end last Friday at Kentucky when John Shelby hit a solo homer to lead off the 11th inning in a 9-8 loss to the Wildcats.

On the season, Pelzer is 3-1 with a 1.39 ERA as well as 36 strikeouts and just 12 hits allowed over 32.1 innings of work. Pelzer will make his first SEC start this weekend on Friday night vs. Mississippi State. Pelzer started two non-conference games vs. Radford and Duquesne earlier in the year.

Freshman Andrew Crisp has been swinging the hot bat as of late with a 9-for-14 (.643) performance last week at Kentucky. With starts in both right field and second base, Crisp has become one of the more versatile players in the lineup. Crisp has raised his season average .344 (22-for-64) and owns four HR and 11 RBI.

Three of those four HR have come over the last two weeks including a game-winner on April 14 vs. Ole Miss. His two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh inning also broke a 1-1 tie as Carolina defeated the Tigers of LSU 2-1 to sweep the series on April 2.

Freshman RHP Mike Cisco had his best outing of his young career and earned SEC Pitcher of the Week in a 1-0 win over Ole Miss. Cisco worked eight innings, the longest stint of the year by a Carolina pitcher and allowed no runs on three hits while striking out eight batters to pick up the win.

Cisco is 5-0 with a 3.42 ERA and 44 strikeouts and just 12 walks allowed in 50 innings pitched. Opponents are only batting .201 against him. Four of his five wins are against SEC opponents. Cisco combined with sophomore RHP Wynn Pelzer to shut down the Rebels in Friday’s series opener. Cisco is the Saturday starter vs. Mississippi State.

Senior OF Michael Campbell has been selected as the University of South Carolina 2005-06 Co-Male Athlete of the Year, announced Monday evening at the 2005-06 All Sports Banquet. Campbell earned the honors along with football wide receiver Sidney Rice.

Senior OF Michael Campbell has moved past Mac White (1991-94) into second place on the USC All-Time list for games played. Campbell has played 241 games at Carolina and is 10 behind Landon Powell (2001-04) for the all-time record at Carolina. Campbell also moved up the All-Time list in hits as he is now third at South Carolina with 277 career hits. Campbell is 26 hits behind White for the USC all-time record.

The senior outfielder had a stellar weekend at the plate vs. Kentucky batting 6-for-11 (.545) with three RBI and four runs scored. Campbell is the team’s top hitter in conference games and ranks third in the SEC with a .427 average (32-for-75) along with a team-high 21 runs scored and 22 RBI as well as three HR.

Campbell is currently hitting .346 (54-for-156) with nine doubles, three HR and 39 RBI. He is one of just two players to have started all 41 games this year. Campbell also had 80 putouts and one assist with a 1.000 fielding percentage at center field.

In addition, his assist from the outfield in a win over Clemson set a new Carolina school record for assists by an outfielder. He has three on the season and 22 in his career. The previous record was 20 held by Paul Hollins (1978-81).

Campbell is the most experienced player in Division I baseball with 241 games under his belt as well as 234 starts. Campbell is the leading returnee 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.  241 Michael Campbell   2003-04-05-06
At Bats1. 903 Mac White 1991-92-93-942. 897 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
Hits (200 or more)1. 303 Mac White 1991-92-93-942. 285 Drew Meyer 2000-01-023. 277 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
One Base Hits1. 209 Drew Meyer 2000-01-022. 198 Mac White 1991-92-93-943. 185 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
Two Base Hits1. 67 Mac White 1991-92-93-942. 61 Landon Powell 2001-02-03-043. 53 Greg Morhardt 1982-83-844. 51 Mike Curry 1996-97-984. 51 Derick Urquhart 1995-96-97-986. 50 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
Three Base Hits1. 12 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-061. 12 Mac White 1991-92-93-941. 12 Bill Harley 1930-31-32
Runs Batted In1. 198 Mac White 1991-92-93-941. 198 Chris Boyle 1981-82-83-843. 193 Landon Powell 2001-02-03-044. 184 Hank Small 1972-73-74-755. 182 Jeff Parnell 1990-91-92-936. 180 Derick Urquhart 1995-96-97-986. 180 Ryan Bordenick 1995-96-97-988. 168 Garrett Carter 1985-86-87-888. 168 Charlie Aldrich 1985-86-8710. 165 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06
Runs Scored1. 223 Derick Urquhart 1995-96-97-982. 215 Mike Curry 1996-97-983. 212 Drew Meyer 2000-01-024. 209 Mac White 1991-92-93-945. 182 Jeff Parnell 1990-91-92-936. 176 Landon Powell 2001-02-03-047. 174 Garrett Carter 1985-86-87-888. 166 Ryan Bordenick 1995-96-97-988. 166 Jim Curl 1978-79-80-818. 166 Michael Campbell 2003-04-05-06

South Carolina saw its phenomenal streak of error-less games end at 13 games on Sunday, April 16 when USC freshman second baseman James Darnell misplayed a ground ball in the third inning vs. Ole Miss.

The Gamecocks had handled 507 consecutive defensive chances, 370 putouts and 137 assists before committing their 17th error in 37 games. The errorless span covered 123 1/3 innings.

South Carolina is second in the nation with a .983 fielding percentage (1104 putouts, 383 assists, 25 errors). South Carolina has played 25 error-less games out of 41 this year.

South Carolina hit three consecutive solo home runs to open the fourth inning in Wednesday night’s 11-2 win vs. The Citadel. Ian Paxton, Robbie Grinestaff and Jon Willard went back-to-back-to-back, as USC came one consecutive home run shy of the school record set in 1980 vs. East Carolina.

South Carolina has been putting the home runs together in bunches as of late as the Gamecocks also had back-to-back round trippers courtesy of Justin Smoak and Andrew Crisp in last Saturday’s win at Ole Miss.

Freshman shortstop Reese Havens has been productive at the plate as of late and is batting .293 (43-for-147) with a team-high 10 doubles. Havens tied a season-high with three hits and a homer vs. The Citadel and a had a season-high three RBI in Saturday’s loss vs. Kentucky. He also had three hits including a game-winning RBI double in a 12-inning contest against Alabama. The freshman from Sullivan’s Island has fielded .964 (51 putouts, 110 assists, six errors) in his first year at shortstop for Carolina.

Freshman LHP Will Atwood earned a win vs. The Citadel on Wednesday night with 6.2 innings of four-hit ball allowing just one run. He is 3-0 on the year with a 3.29 ERA.

In only his second start of his career, Atwood worked a 5.2 innings and allowed just two runs on six hits with four strikeouts and no walk, earning a no-decision in a 3-2 loss to Clemson on April 5.

Junior RHP Jeff Jeffords has come on for five consecutive solid performances out of the bullpen including last Sunday vs. Kentucky. Jeffords worked two perfect innings in the 12-9 loss to the Wildcats. He is 0-0 on the year with a 2.81 ERA as well as 11 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched.

Freshman 1B Justin Smoak was 3-for-4 with a solo homer, double and three RBI in Saturday’s win 15-12 loss to Kentucky. Smoak currently is hitting .272 with eight HR and 29 RBI. He has also contributed 10 doubles and is one of two players to start all 41 games.

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.