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Feb. 26, 2010

Box Score

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Greenville, N.C. – Blake Cooper worked seven innings and allowed just two runs on four hits and the Gamecocks pounded out 11 hits on its way to a 6-2 win at East Carolina on Friday afternoon in the first of a three-game series. South Carolina is 4-0 on the year while the loss drops East Carolina to 2-3 for the season. Both teams meet again on Saturday with first pitch set for 2 p.m. The game can be heard live on 107.5 FM “The Game,” the Gamecock Radio Network and at with Tommy Moody and Derek Scott on the call.

With the Gamecocks head 3-2 entering the top of the sixth inning, the South Carolina offense answered a two-run bottom of the fifth by East Carolina with a pair of runs of its own to take a three-run lead. With runners on first and third with one out, Whit Merrifield hit a slow chopper just in front of home plate. On the play, ECU pitcher Shawn Armstrong threw high of first base allowing Kyle Enders to score and Scott Wingo to advance from first to third base. Wingo would eventually score to give South Carolina a 5-2 lead on a RBI fielder’s choice by Christian Walker.

East Carolina threatened the three-run South Carolina lead in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with two outs. South Carolina reliever John Taylor ended the threat though as he was able to get John Wooten to fly out to deep right centerfield on the edge of the warning track to end the inning. Wooten had a streak of three consecutive games with a homer that ended Friday afternoon. South Carolina added an insurance run in the top of the ninth as Kyle Enders tallied a two-out RBI double to right center scoring pinch runner Evan Marzilli.

Cooper is now 2-0 after his seven-inning effort and now has 23 career wins, one behind Bret Baynham (1978-81) for 13th on the South Carolina career victories list. Taylor allowed just one hit in 1.1 innings of work to earn his first career save. East Carolina starter Seth Maness suffered the loss and is now 0-2 for the season. He worked 4.1 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk for the Pirates.

“It was a hard-fought game,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “We knew it would be. They have a great club and I thought Blake Cooper gave us a great start and battled (for us). He went seven and only gave up four hits. (East Carolina is) good, they have some good hitters in (their lineup) and it was pretty much an even game. We were able to mix and match out of the bullpen and hang on for a win.

The Gamecocks went ahead 1-0 in the top of the second inning. Nick Ebert led off the frame with a double down the left field line and scored as a sharp hit single by designated hitter Jeffery Jones that was misplayed by right fielder Devin Harris allowing Ebert to score the first run of the game. The lead increased to 2-0 in the third inning as Scott Wingo singled and scored on a one-out RBI double by Robert Beary to right centerfield.

South Carolina scored its third single run in the top of the fifth inning. Whit Merrifield opened the fifth with a base hit, extending a hitting streak that started last year, to 18 games. With two outs and a pair of runners on base, Merrifield would score the third run as East Carolina reliever Shawn Armstrong threw a pair of wild pitches that eventually advanced Merrifield home.

East Carolina crept to within a run in the bottom of the fifth though as Corey Thompson connected with a two-run homer off of Cooper. After Jared Avchen was hit by a pitch, Thompson knocked a 2-2 pitch from Cooper for a line drive over the right field wall giving the Pirates their first two runs of the game.

South Carolina finished with an 11-6 advantage in hits. Jones, Adam Matthews and Enders all had two hits apiece for the Gamecocks. Cameron Freeman was 2-for-3 to lead the Pirates.