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May 21, 2009

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Box Score

Hoover, Ala. – South Carolina scored four runs in the top of the 11th inning on its way to a 9-5 extra inning victory over Alabama on the first day of the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Ala. Bobby Haney scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch with Nick Ebert drawing a RBI bases loaded walk and Justin Dalles driving home a pair of runs on a two-out double as the Gamecocks broke a 5-5 tie to earn the victory. The Gamecocks are now 38-19 on the year and have won 11 of its last 12 games played. Alabama suffers the loss and is now 37-18 on the year. Carolina returns to action vs. No. 8 seed Vanderbilt with first pitch scheduled for 9:30 p.m. ET at Regions Park. The game can be heard live on and on the Gamecock Radio Network.

The three hour and 57 minute game had several moments of truth before the Gamecocks broke the deadlock in the 11th inning. Haney jumpstarted the inning with a one-out double over the head of left fielder Kyle Moore and a bloop single by Scott Wingo and a hit by pitch against Whit Merrifield loaded the bases for Carolina. The go-ahead run would score then as reliever Jimmy Nelson threw low and past catcher Vin DeFazio allowing Haney to score. The Tide would then intentionally walk Carolina’s batter, DeAngelo Mack, to load the bases for a second time for Nick Ebert. On a 3-2 pitch, Nelson threw low of the strike zone to walk Ebert and give Carolina a two-run cushion. With two outs and the bases still jammed, Justin Dalles gave Carolina some insurance with a two-run double off the left field wall putting Carolina ahead by four.

Alabama made things interesting in the bottom half of the frame, loading the bases with two outs and bringing the potential tying run to the plate in Jake Smith. On a 2-2 pitch from Gamecock reliever Alex Farotto, Smith hit a sharp laced ball off the glove of the Gamecocks’ left-hander. Farotto was able to move quickly to retrieve the ball and threw to first base to record the out and seal the Gamecock victory. Farotto’s throw just beat Smith to first base, who showed tremendous hustle and was hurt trying to keep the inning alive for the Crimson Tide.

Farotto earned the win after 1.1 scoreless innings of work out of the pen. He is now 4-2 on the year. Alabama reliever Nathan Kilcrease was tough in relief for Alabama despite the loss. He did not allow run from the sixth-10th before finally being touched in the 11th inning. His line finished at five innings, three runs on three hits with three strikeouts and one walk. He is now 4-4 on the year.

“We just hung in there,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “They had some opportunities and we had some opportunities. We mixed and matched in the bullpen. It was anybody’s game and we were just very fortunate to win.

The Crimson Tide held the advantage early and broke ahead 3-0 on Carolina starting pitcher Blake Cooper in the first inning. Alabama caught a couple of breaks as Josh Rutledge and Kent Matthes both hit infield singles sandwiched in between by another base hit by Ross Wilson that loaded the bases. Designated hitter Brandon May then put Alabama on the scoreboard with a two-run double to right center scoring both Rutledge and Wilson. The Tide would score their third run on a sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Jake Smith.

Alabama added a single run in the bottom of the fourth to increase the lead to 4-0. Alex Kubal led off with a double to left field and after advancing to third on a fly ball would score on Josh Rutledge’s RBI ground out to shortstop.

Carolina cut Alabama’s lead in half with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning. The Gamecocks put together a couple key two-out hits as Whit Merrifield doubled to advance Scott Wingo to third base and both would then score as DeAngelo Mack ripped a base hit to left center to cut the deficit to 4-2. The single extended Mack’s hitting streak to 18 games.

The Gamecocks chased Alabama starter Del Howell in the sixth inning and went ahead 5-4 on the back of a three-run homer by Adam Matthews. Jackie Bradley, Jr. got things started with a leadoff single and advanced to third on Andrew Crisp’s one-out base hit to right field. That set the stage for Matthews, who crushed a 1-1 pitch from Howell over the left centerfield wall to put the Gamecocks ahead for the first time on the evening. Matthews’ home run was his third of the year.

It remained 5-4 until Kent Matthes knocked a one-out solo home run to center field to tie the game. Matthes’ homer was his league-leading 28th home run of the season.

“We were able to get on the board and then Adam Matthews hit a big home run,” said Tanner. “It looked like he got a change up and it is hard to hit one out of here but he got every bit of it. Then Kent Matthes tied it up with a monster mash.”

Both starting pitchers, Cooper and Howell, allowed five runs on seven hits and struck out seven batters with two walks. Cooper went 6.2 innings with Howell finishing the night with 5.1 innings of work.

South Carolina totaled 11 this to Alabama’s eight on the night. Bradley was 3-for-6 to lead the Gamecocks at the plate. Wingo also had two hits. Matthews’ three RBI were a career-high.

With Carolina’s victory, all four lower seeds won on Opening Day at the SEC Tournament (No. 5 South Carolina, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Arkansas & No. 8 Vanderbilt).

“With the lower seeds all winning, that really is the SEC,” said Tanner. “In this conference, there is not much difference from the top to the bottom and that was evident today with all the lower seeds getting the win.”

South Carolina has now gone 10 straight years with winning at least one game at the SEC Tournament (2000-09).