March 9, 2010
Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina (7-4) scored 10 runs in the third inning on its way to a 12-4 victory over Valparaiso (3-10) on Tuesday night at Carolina Stadium. Whit Merrifield tied the school record for consecutive games with a hit at 25 and was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and junior reliever Jose Mata pitched six strong innings of relief to lift the Gamecocks to victory. The two teams meet again on Wednesday to close the series out. Game time has been moved to 2 p.m. due to forecasted inclement weather for Wednesday night. A full recap will be posted soon.
Trailing 3-0 heading into the bottom of the third, the Gamecocks sent 13 batters to the plate and scored 10 times to take a seven-run lead on the Crusaders. Robert Beary opened the frame with a single followed by a walk to Adrian Morales and a hit by pitch to Merrifield as Carolina loaded the bases with no outs. Scott Wingo would drive in the first Gamecock run with a sacrifice fly to deep left centerfield putting the Gamecocks on the scoreboard. After a walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. loaded the bases for a second time, South Carolina took advantage of a Valpo miscue as Christian Walker reached base on a fielding error by third baseman Kyle Muhlsteff that also scored Morales. Kyle Enders tied the game on a sacrifice fly that brought home Merrifield. After Nick Ebert was hit by a pitch, the Gamecocks scored a pair more runs as Brady Thomas drilled a double down the right field line. Up for the second time in the inning, Robert Beary was hit by a pitch to load the bases again for Carolina. This time it was Morales who came through in the clutch as his two-out RBI double off the wall in left center cleared the bases and gave Carolina an 8-3 lead. Merrifield then closed out the scoring for the inning for the Gamecocks as he drilled a two-run homer to left field to put Carolina op top 10-3.
The home run for Merrifield put him in the record books as he is now tied for the consecutive hit streak at Carolina with 25 straight games with a hit. That ties him with Greg Keatley, who also holds the single-season record hitting streak at 25 games from the 1976 season. Merrifield has hit safely in all 11 games this year for Carolina and had a hit in 14 straight games dating back to last season.
After a Valpo run in the fourth, the Gamecocks would score two more runs in the eighth inning as Ebert connected with a RBI base hit and Beary drove in a run on his second hit by pitch on the evening.
Carolina received a gem of a relief performance from junior Jose Mata, who worked six innings and allowed just one run on two hits with four strikeouts and two walks to earn his first career win with the Garnet & Black. He is 1-0 for the year. Vanderbilt starter Bryce Shafer lasted only 2.2 innings and gave up 10 runs, two earned, on four hits with four walks and a pair of strikeouts. He is 1-1 for the season.
South Carolina finished with a 9-3 advantage in hits. Merrifield and Morales each had two hits to lead the Gamecocks.
Valpo had the early lead after scoring three runs in the first. The Crusaders were able to take advantage of two walks as well as two fielding errors to get out to a 3-0 lead before the Gamecocks mounted a rally.