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March 18, 2010

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Carolina Spotlight: Whit Merrifield

Columbia, S.C. – The SEC season is here as South Carolina (13-4) opens conference play hosting a three-game series vs. Tennessee (10-7) at Carolina Stadium. First pitch for the series opener is set for 7 p.m. on Friday with Saturday’s contest scheduled for 4 p.m. and the series finale on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Live video broadcast will be available on with the game also available on the Gamecock Radio Network with Andy Demetra and Tommy Moody on the call.

Probable Starting Pitchers

South Carolina Blake Cooper (Sr. RHP) 3-0, 3.28 ERA, 24.2 IP, 9 BB, 24 SO
Tennessee Bryan Morgado (Jr. LHP) 2-1, 5.16 ERA, 22.2 IP, 11 BB, 29 SO

South Carolina Sam Dyson (Jr. RHP) 1-0, 6.23 ERA, 17.1 IP, 4 BB, 22 SO
Tennessee Aaron Tullo (Sr. RHP) 0-0, 3.52 ERA, 7.2 IP, 5 BB, 7 SO

South Carolina Tyler Webb (Fr. LHP) 0-1, 3.45 ERA, 15.2 IP, 6 BB, 17 SO
Tennessee Stephen McCray (Sr. RHP)2-1, 0.73 ERA, 24.2 IP, 5 BB, 15 SO

South Carolina leads the all-time series vs. Tennessee 40-33 including three consecutive series victories over the Volunteers. Carolina won two of three games vs. UT in 2007 and 2009 in Knoxville and took two of three games vs. the Vols in 2008 in the last three games played at Sarge Frye Field.

After dropping the series opener 9-5, South Carolina stormed back from an early eight-run deficit and rallied with nine runs in the final three innings to stun Tennessee 15-12 in game two. The win saw Carolina take the lead in the ninth inning with four runs including a two-run game-winning single by DeAngelo Mack to break a 12-12 tie. Gamecock reliever Parker Bangs, who also homered in the game, worked two perfect inning of relief and struck out all six batters he faced to pick up the win. In Sunday’s rubber game, South Carolina belted five home runs including a grand slam homer by Andrew Crisp on its way to a 15-6 win over Tennessee to clinch this weekend’s series.

South Carolina had a solid series at the plate batting .328 (39-for-119) vs. the Volunteers with seven homers and 34 RBI as well as 35 runs scored.

Whit Merrifield was a combined 7-for-11 (.636) in Carolina’s two victories at Tennessee. He tied a career-high for hits with a 5-for-6 day at the plate in the Gamecocks 15-12 comeback win over the Volunteers. His one-out RBI double in the ninth inning tied the game and helped propel Carolina to eventual win. He finished with four RBI in the game and came back on Sunday and helped Carolina clinch the series with 2-for-5 day at the plate. He homered for second consecutive day, an inside the park home run, the first of his career and also drove in three runs.

Whit Merrifield and Scott Wingo had three hits apiece and six Gamecock pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts as South Carolina (13-4) earned an 8-3 win over Davidson (11-6) on Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium. The win is the seventh consecutive for the Gamecocks as they head into conference play.

Merrifield’s three hits included a pair of doubles, the third time in his career that he has tallied two doubles in one game. Wingo’s three hits also ties a career-high. They each scored two runs. Nick Ebert also was 2-for-5 at the plate with two RBI as the Gamecocks pounded out 11 hits on the evening.

Junior Whit Merrifield is among the league leaders in several categories including total plate appearances (86, 1st), at bats (74, 1st), runs scored (23, T2nd), hits (26, 5th) and total bases (40, T10th). Merrifield had three hits in Tuesday’s win at Furman as well as three hits in the Wednesday night victory over Davidson.

He currently has 194 career hits with the Garnet & Black, six hits short of reaching the 200 career hit mark at Carolina. There have been 22 players in school history that have tallied 200 or more hits.

Earlier this year, he set a school record for consecutive games with a hit safely as he reached 26 in his hitting streak, besting the previous mark of 25 set by Greg Keatley in the 1976 season. Merrifield hit safely in the last 14 games of the 2009 season and the first 12 games of the 2010 season. The streak ended on Mar. 13 in the first game of the doubleheader against Brown. For the season, Merrifield is batting .351 (26-for-74) with three HR and 17 RBI.

South Carolina pitchers lead the Southeastern Conference in a couple of categories. The Gamecock pitchers have allowed opponents to hit just .214 on the year in 151.2 innings pitched and the staff has 183 strikeouts as well, both best among SEC staffs.

Junior infielder Scott Wingo has been productive at the plate with a .579 on-base percentage, second highest in the SEC and is batting .378 (14-for-37) with a pair of homers and 11 RBI. He also has three doubles and a triple. Wingo tied a career-high with three hits in Wednesday’s win over Davidson and set a career-high with four RBI in Tuesday’s victory vs. Furman at Fluor Field.

His hit by pitch last Saturday vs. Brown set a school record as it was his 35th of his career, besting the previous mark of 34 set by Michael Campbell (2003-04-05-06) and Garris Gonce (2001-02). For the season, Wingo is batting .310 (9-for-29) with 14 runs scored. He has an on-base percentage of .571 with 12 walks and seven hit by pitches.

South Carolina is hitting .310 (182-for-588) as a team with a .971 fielding percentage on the year as well as a 3.74 team ERA.

South Carolina pitchers Jimmy Revan, Matt Price and Parker Bangs combined to strike out 18 batters to tie a school single-game record in the 7-3 win over Valparaiso last Wednesday. The Carolina pitching staff was in command for most the afternoon on its way to the victory over the Crusaders. Price earned the win in relief of Revan with four scoreless innings and just one hit allowed while striking out eight and walking one. Bangs closed the game out striking out the side to preserve the win in his one inning of relief. Revan had seven strikeouts to two walks in four innings as the starter. The strikeout total of 18 is the seventh time in school history that the Gamecocks have reached the mark. The last time was on March 18, 2006 when six Gamecock pitchers totaled 18 in a win at Auburn.

Senior right-hander Blake Cooper worked six innings on Saturday against Brown and allowed two runs on two hits with six strikeouts and four walks to earn the victory. He is 3-0 on the year with a 3.28 ERA and opponents batting only .195 against him.

With the victory last week, Cooper now has 24 career victories and is tied with Bret Baynham (1978-81) for 13th on the South Carolina career victories list.

Junior Parker Bangs figured in several games last week with both the bat and the arm. Bangs homered, was 3-for-4 and drove in a career-high four RBI in the 8-4 win over Brown in the first game of a doubleheader. He also helped close out the Wednesday game out of the bullpen with one perfect inning of relief and also hurled 1.2 scoreless innings in Sunday’s victory over Brown. In seven relief appearances, Bangs has allowed just one hit in 5.1 innings of work and has nine strikeouts with a 0.00 ERA.

Junior reliever Jose Mata earned his second win of the year in the 8-3 victory over Davidson with 1.1 scoreless innings of relief. He owns a 2-0 record with a 1.86 ERA in six apperances, 9.2 innings pitched and has eight strikeouts to three walks allowed.

He also pitched a career-high six innings of relief in the 12-4 win over Valparaiso. Mata allowed just one hit on two runs with four strikeouts to earn his first career victory with the Garnet & Black.

Senior right-hander Jay Brown earned his first victory of the season in relief of the nightcap in Saturday’s doubleheader. Brown settled in with a strong 4.1 innings of relief. He would yield just one run, a solo homer in the seventh inning and struck out four and walked none to earn the victory.

Eight different Gamecock pitchers have earned victories in the first 13 wins for Carolina this season. Cooper leads the way with a 3-0 record. Sophomore left-hander Michael Roth leads the team and the SEC in appearances with nine on the season.

Junior infielder Adrian Morales has been a consistent performer in the lineup through the first part of the season. Morales, who has started at both second base and third base is batting .319 (15-for-47) with 11 runs scored and 14 RBI as well as a .424 on-base percentage.

Senior catcher Kyle Enders went 3-for-5 with a career-high four RBI including a two-out RBI base hit in the 10th inning to lift South Carolina to a 6-5 win over Brown and sweep a three-game series. Enders has been another consistent bat as he owns a .393 batting average (22-for-56) with six doubles, nine runs scored and 11 RBI.

Senior catcher Brady Thomas has also shown sparks with the bat including a 2-for-3 day at the plate with a triple and three runs scored in the 7-3 win over Valparaiso. Thomas is hitting .360 (9-for-25) with five of his nine hits on the year, extra base hits (four doubles, one triple). Thomas also had two hits in the 10-7 win over Brown.

Gamecock right-hander Matt Price has earned victories in two relief appearances. Price got a win last Saturday vs. Clemson with one inning of relief and he also earned a win with four scoreless innings and a career-high eight strikeouts on Wednesday vs. Valparaiso.

Price is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and has 15 strikeouts in nine innings pitched.