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April 26, 2010

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina baseball team has moved up in this week’s rankings with the Gamecocks sitting at No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30 with a No. 7 ranking in the Baseball America Top 25 & Rivals Top 25 and a No. 8 ranking in this week’s USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll released. South Carolina returns home this weekend hosting a three-game series with Alabama beginning on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Carolina Stadium.

South Carolina went 4-0 this past week with a non-conference win vs. USC Upstate on Tuesday night and a three-game series sweep of Georgia in Athens this weekend. The Gamecocks are now 32-8 on the year and 14-4 in SEC play. The Gamecocks lead the Southeastern Conference by one game over Arkansas and are two games ahead of Florida for the lead in the SEC East. The Gamecocks are the only SEC squad to have won all six of its conference series this year. Carolina has won nine consecutive SEC series dating back to last year.

South Carolina now owns six straight wins over Georgia with sweeps over the Bulldogs this year and last year in Columbia. Carolina leads the all-time series history 55-46 over the Bulldogs as well.

Senior right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper improved to 8-0 on the year with a victory in the 11-4 win over Georgia on Friday night. Cooper leads the SEC in victories with his 8-0 record and also leads the conference with 70.2 innings pitched. In addition, Cooper ranks third in the conference in opposing batting average (.190), fourth in strikeouts (66) and seventh in earned run average (2.67). Cooper allowed four runs on seven hits in eight innings in Friday’s win. He struck out nine and walked one. With the win, Cooper moved up on the all-time career victory list at Carolina with 29 career wins. He is currently 10th on the school career list. His 29 career victories is tied with Daniel Bibona of UC Irvine for second highest among current players in Division l. Matt Ridings of Western Kentucky leads Division I with 32 career wins.

South Carolina junior right-handed pitcher Sam Dyson hurled a three-hit complete game shutout and earned a victory in seven innings in the 5-0 win vs. Georgia on Sunday, April 25 in game one of a doubleheader. He is only the third SEC pitcher to record a complete game shutout this year and the second this season to do it in SEC play. Dyson finished with 69 strikes out of 96 pitches and allowed just one runner from Georgia to get in scoring position in the seven-inning shutout. All 21 putouts by the Gamecock came from the diamond, as Dyson struck out five batters and recorded 14 ground ball outs. The win was the first complete game shutout of Dyson’s career. It helped clinched a series victory over Georgia, the first time since 2002 that the Gamecocks have won a series at Georgia. With the win, Dyson moved into a tie for 15th on the all-time career victory list at Carolina with 21 career wins.

Dyson earned a second straight win in conference play and is now 4-2 with 4.35 ERA on the year. He has 53 strikeouts to just nine walks in 51.2 innings pitched. Opponents are batting just .259 against him on the year.

The South Carolina pitching staff now has seven shutouts on the year including five in SEC play (4-0 vs. Tennessee, 2-0 at Auburn, 2-0 at Vanderbilt, 5-0 vs. Ole Miss, 5-0 at Georgia). The seven shutouts are the most recorded by a SEC staff this year.

Carolina’s pitching staff continues to be among the top in the nation sporting a 3.31 ERA in 356.2 innings pitched. The squad’s ERA ranks second best in the SEC with the squad leading the conference in opponents batting average allowing teams to be hitting at just a .217 clip on the year. Carolina also is second in the Southeastern Conference with 373 strikeouts.

In SEC contests, Carolina leads the conference in opposing batting average (.223) and is second best in ERA (3.17) and strikeouts (149).

Freshman reliever Ethan Carter continues to put together stellar appearances out of the pen. He has not allowed a run in 14 of 15 relief appearances this season and owns a scoreless inning streak of 14 innings. Carter worked two scoreless innings with three strikeouts to earn a victory in the 8-7 win over Georgia on Sunday. He is now 2-0 on the year with a 0.47 ERA in 19.1 innings pitched. He has 22 strikeouts to just four walks with opponents batting just .154 against him.

Junior Whit Merrifield continues to be one of the top bats in the Southeastern Conference. Merrifield went 4-for-12 in the weekend series vs. Georgia with a homer, a double and four runs scored. He now has 223 career hits, 15th all-time on the hits list at Carolina. Merrifield has hit safely in 37 of 40 games this year. He is tied for third in the SEC in runs scored (47). He is the only Gamecock player to have started all 40 games this year. He is batting .333 (55-for-165) with eight HR and 25 RBI. His eight home runs tie him for the team lead.

Merrifield has saved his best for SEC play as he owns a .371 average (26-for-30) in conference games with 20 runs scored as well as five home runs. That average is ninth best in the SEC in SEC games. He also has a .629 slugging percentage and a .463 on-base percentage; both those marks are tied for 10th best in the conference. Five of his eight homers this year have also come in SEC play.

Sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. got it rolling this weekend vs. Georgia batting .538 (7-for-13) in the series with a homer, three RBI and five runs scored vs. the Bulldogs. Bradley reached base five times with four hits including a homer and a game-winning RBI single in the top of the seventh inning as South Carolina held on for an 8-7 victory over Georgia in game two of the doubleheader. His four hits was a season-high as well. Bradley is batting .342 for the year (41-for-120) with three HR and 18 RBI. He has also walked 23 times and owns a .451 on-base percentage.

Junior infielder Adrian Morales leads the Gamecocks with 35 RBI on the year. Morales hit .545 (6-for-11) in the series vs. Georgia with two HR, five runs scored and six RBI vs. the Bulldogs. Morales had a homer in each of the games of the doubleheader on Sunday vs. Georgia. He was 3-for-5 with two runs scored in the 11-4 win over Georgia on Friday also. Morales is batting .288 (34-for-118) for the year with four homers and eight doubles as well. He has 18 of his 35 RBI in SEC games that is 10th best in the league in conference play.

The South Carolina hitters had their best weekend at the plate in SEC competition as the Gamecocks hit .333 (31-for-93) in the series vs. Georgia. The six homers in the series also tied for the most in an SEC weekend by the Gamecocks (Morales (2), Merrifield, Bradley, Ebert, Matthews). Carolina also had six homers in a weekend series victory over Mississippi State.

South Carolina was also stellar defensively as the Gamecocks did not record an error in the weekend series vs. the Bulldogs, the second time this year that Carolina has finished a weekend SEC series without an error made (the other was at Vanderbilt). Carolina is now fielding .974 for the season.

South Carolina is now 27-1 for the season when leading entering the top of the seventh inning. South Carolina is also 22-2 for the year when scoring first in a game. In other superlatives, the Gamecocks are 26-3 when out-hitting its opponent and 29-4 when allowing five runs or less. The Gamecocks are 13-5 in games decided by three runs or less.

Next Week:
4/30/10 – vs. Alabama (7 p.m.)
5/1/10 – vs. Alabama (1 p.m.) (CSS)
5/2/10 – vs. Alabama (1:30 p.m.)

All times Eastern