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June 1, 2009

Box Score

Greenville, N.C. – Devin Harris hit a three-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and knocked a RBI base hit up the middle in the bottom of the 10th inning to help lift East Carolina to a 10-9 victory over South Carolina in the championship game of the 2009 Greenville Regional. South Carolina ends the year with a 40-23 record with East Carolina moving on to the NCAA Super Regional with a 46-18 record.

South Carolina led most of the way after going ahead 6-0 in the third inning and despite a Pirate rally to close it within one run in the bottom of the seventh inning at 7-6, pushed the advantage back to three when Jackie Bradley, Jr. hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to give the Gamecocks a 9-6 lead. East Carolina, as they had done the entire regional, mounted a comeback. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Brandon Henderson drew a leadoff walk, which sent the Gamecocks back to the bullpen for senior right-hander Curtis Johnson. Johnson would walk the first batter he faced, Dustin Harrington bringing Harris up to the plate with a pair of runners on base. On a 0-1 pitch, Harris drove a slider from Johnson over the left centerfield wall to tie the game up at 9-9. Johnson battled back though and would get three of the next four batters out he faced to force the game into the extra innings.

South Carolina looked to go back ahead with the potential tying run on second base with one out in the top of the 10th but East Carolina reliever Mike Wright would get the next two outs to send ECU back to the dugout for the bottom of the 10th inning. With one out, designated hitter Kyle Roller roped a double into the gap in left center. After an intentional walk to Dustin Harrington, Johnson dug deep and got the second out on Dustin Harrington with a pop up to right field. Carolina went to the bullpen and brought on right-hander Sam Dyson to face Harris. The ECU right fielder knocked a hard single up the middle with Gamecock center fielder Whit Merrifield throwing home. Roller just beat the throw at home plate for the game-winning run and ECU clinched the regional over the Gamecocks.

Wright earned the win going 1.1 scoreless innings and allowing no runs on no hits with a strikeout and a walk. He is now 1-2 for the year. Johnson suffered the loss and ends the year with a 2-1 record. He allowed three runs on three hits in 1.2 innings with a pair of walks.

“First of all, congratulations to East Carolina, Coach Godwin, his staff and his players,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “They did a heck of a job. They’re the No. 1 seed here trying to defend their turf. They have outstanding talent and they came through in a big way tonight. They have a great club and it wasn’t just this weekend. They’ve been doing it all year. They’re tough to beat and it’s tough to get 27 outs.”

The Gamecocks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. With two outs and runners on first and second base, Whit Merrifield drilled a RBI single down the left field lint to score Bobby Haney and give the Gamecocks a one-run lead. Merrifield’s single extended his hitting streak to 14 games.

South Carolina erupted for five more and chased starting pitcher Patrick Somers as well as reliever Chris Heston in the third inning. The frame started with a one-out walk to Nick Ebert followed by a single from Justin Dalles. ECU then took out Somers and brought in Heston, who was welcomed to the game as designated hitter Parker Bangs drilled a RBI single to left center scoring Ebert. Andrew Crisp would add to the Gamecock lead with a RBI sacrifice fly to left field scoring Dalles. After a single by Bobby Haney scored Bangs, the Gamecocks went ahead 6-0 on a two-run homer by Scott Wingo. The Carolina second baseman launched a 2-0 pitch over the wall in right field for his fifth home run of the season.

The Pirates would get to Gamecock starter Jay Brown in the top of the fifth inning with a pair as Ryan Wood knocked a two-run homer to left field to cut into the lead. Brown ended up going 4.2 innings and allowed two runs on five hits.

South Carolina answered with a single run in the top of the sixth inning. After loading the bases with one out, ECU reliever Seth Simmons left one up that Justin Dalles roped to left field. The ball sailed into the air and just missed being a grand slam and ricocheted hard off the left field wall. ECU left fielder Stephen Batts fielded the ball cleanly and with the runners held up at second and third base, the Pirates were able to nab Dalles out as he rounded first base looking to head to second and DeAngelo Mack scored the lone run on the play.

With South Carolina leading 7-2, East Carolina pushed two runs across on Bangs in the sixth inning. Jared Avchen tallied a RBI double and Trent Whitehead added a RBI sacrifice fly as the Pirates crept to within three runs. The seventh inning saws ECU get a little bit closer with two more runs on RBI singles from Dustin Harrington and Harris. Left-hander Alex Farotto, had a pair of runners on first and second but kept the Gamecocks with the lead on a strikeout against Drew Schieber and a fielder’s choice out against Avchen.

After a single and stolen base by Merrifield, the Gamecocks took the three-run lead back on Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s two-run homer to right field. Bradley’s homer was his 11th of the season.

“I’m proud of my players,” said Coach Tanner. “We played hard and we’re ready to go tonight. We tacked some runs on early and Jay Brown gave us a great start. We put some pressure on them but they had the best team tonight. We got in a better position early on but Seth Simmons kept us in check. He gave up a two-run home run but he kept us in check. We weren’t able to finish it out.”

South Carolina finished with a 16-14 advantage in hits. Merrifield went 4-for-6 with two runs scored and a RBI. Bradley, Mack, Dalles and Haney all had two hits as well. Harris’ 4-for-5 day led the Pirates. Roller and Avchen also had two hits. 17 of 18 position starters for both teams had at least one hit.

“It doesn’t feel good but I’m proud of the way our team played,” said South Carolina left fielder DeAngelo Mack. (We) battled all the way through and all the way through the season. “I’m just proud of the way our guys came out and played.”

South Carolina had four players named to the All-Tournament team with catcher Justin Dalles, infielder Bobby Haney, outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. and pitcher Blake Cooper. East Carolina’s Trent Whitehead was named the Most Outstanding Player.

South Carolina now has won 40 or more games in 10 consecutive seasons with the school owning 10 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament dating back to the 2000 season.