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May 25, 2010

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Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina heads to Hoover, Ala. for the 2010 SEC Baseball Tournament. The Gamecocks are the No. 3 seed in this year’s conference tourney and will face the No. 6 seed Ole Miss Rebels in the second game of the tournament. It will be televised live on SportSouth and can be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network and at The Carolina game is set to begin 30 minutes following the conclusion of game one between Alabama and Auburn. That first contest is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET.

Carolina heads into the weekend tournament with a 43-13 mark and after finishing in second place in the Eastern Division with a 21-9 conference record, also the second best conference record in the SEC. South Carolina and Ole Miss met in the regular season with the Gamecocks taking two of three games from the Rebels in Columbia.

South Carolina will start sophomore LHP Nolan Belcher (3-0, 2.03 ERA) with Ole Miss countering with junior LHP Drew Pomeranz (7-2, 2.39 ERA).

2010 SEC Tournament • May 26-30 • Regions Park • Hoover, Ala. Wednesday, May 26Game 1      10:30 a.m.      #7 Alabama vs. #2 Auburn [SPSO]Game 2  TBA         #6 Ole Miss vs. #3 South Carolina [SPSO]Game 3      5:30 p.m.       #8 LSU vs. #1 Florida (CSS)Game 4      TBA     #5 Vanderbilt vs. #4 Arkansas (CSS) Thursday, May 27Game 5      10:30 a.m.      Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 (CSS)Game 6      TBA         Loser G3 vs. Loser G4 (CSS)Game 7      5:30 p.m.       Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 (CSS)Game 8      TBA     Winner G3 vs. Winner G4 (CSS)Friday, May 28Game 9      4 p.m.      Winner G5 vs. Loser G7 (SPSO)Game 10     TBA         Winner G6 vs. Loser G8 [SPSO)Saturday, May 29Game 11     10:30 a.m.      Winner G8 vs. Winner G9 (SPSO)Game 12     TBA         Winner G7 vs. Winner G10 (SPSO)Game 13*    6 p.m.          Winner G11 vs. Loser G11 (CSS)Game 14*    TBA         Winner G12 vs. Loser G12 (CSS)Sunday, May 30Game 15*    2 p.m.           Winner G13 vs. Winner G14 (ESPN2)
All Times are Eastern[ESPN2] - ESPN2[SPSO] - Includes SportSouth, Sun Sports, FOX Sports Southwest, FOX Sports Houston and FOX Sports South in Kentucky[CSS] - Comcast/Charter Sports SoutheastAll games available in High DefinitionAll games will be streamed live on (Formerly ESPN360)All games each day will begin 30 minutes following the previous game, but no earlier than the designated start time.

South Carolina finished in second place in the Eastern Division in the 2010 regular season. Carolina has finished in the upper half of the SEC Eastern Division 14 of 19 seasons since joining the league including 11 of 14 years under head coach Ray Tanner.

South Carolina has reached the SEC Tournament for the 14th consecutive season under head coach Ray Tanner. Carolina’s 14 straight appearances is the longest current streak among the 12 SEC schools. Carolina won the SEC Tournament in 2004 defeating Vanderbilt in the championship game and also finished second in 2002 to Alabama.

South Carolina defeated Ole Miss in two of three games earlier this year in April at Carolina Stadium.

In game one of the series, South Carolina senior right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper hurled a four-hit complete game shutout and the Gamecocks scored all five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on its way to 5-0 victory over Ole Miss. Cooper struck out a career-high 10 batters in the victory, his fifth complete game of his career but his first career complete game shutout. He allowed just four hits and one walk in the victory. The pitching matchup between Cooper and Ole Miss starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz was everything as advertised as both staff aces put up zero after zero on the scoreboard through the night on a warm evening in Columbia, S.C. Pomeranz did not allow a hit until the sixth and Cooper retired 11 in a row at one point. Pomeranz left after seven innings allowing no runs on two hits with 10 strikeouts and four walks.

It would be the eighth inning against the Rebels bullpen that would be when the Gamecocks made their move. Scott Wingo opened the frame with a leadoff walk against Ole Miss reliever Trent Rothlin. With reliever Brett Huber into the game, Whit Merrifield also walked to give the Gamecocks a pair of runners. Carolina then caught a break as Jackie Bradley Jr. laid down a sacrifice bunt with an errant throw by third baseman Zach Miller going past first baseman Miles Hamblin and allowing Wingo to score from second base. With Bradley on second and Merrifield on third with one out, the Rebels intentionally walked Nick Ebert to load the bases. Still with one out, Huber got the second out of the inning with a strikeout against Adam Matthews. However, it would be Adrian Morales that would strike with the key hit in the inning as he roped a double to right center clearing the bases and putting the Gamecocks ahead by four runs. Kyle Enders kept the momentum going as he tripled to right center then scoring Morales and giving the Gamecocks a 5-0 lead.

In game two of the series, Christian Walker’s grand slam highlighted a seven-run second inning and starting pitcher Sam Dyson did not allow an earned run in 6.1 innings of work as South Carolina defeated Ole Miss 9-5 to clinch a weekend SEC baseball series at Carolina Stadium. All nine position players recorded at least one hit with the Gamecock finishing with 16 in the game, the second highest total by the Gamecocks at the plate this year. Thomas and Morales were each 3-for-4. Morales’ three hits were a career high. Walker went 2-for-4 with Ebert 2-for-3 and Adam Matthews 2-for-4 as well. Ole Miss had eight hits. They were led by a 2-for-4 day at the plate by Tim Ferguson as well as a pair of hits by designated hitter Matt Snyder.

In game three of the series, a solo home run by David Phillips in the top of the seventh inning lifted Ole Miss to a 5-4 victory over South Carolina in the finale of a three-game SEC baseball series at Carolina Stadium.

With the score deadlocked at 4-4 in the top of the seventh, Phillips knocked the first pitch from reliever John Taylor over the right field wall to give the Rebels a one-run lead. Carolina looked to rally in the bottom half as Whit Merrifield reached on a bunt base hit and advanced to second base on a throwing error by first baseman Miles Hamblin. After a fly ball out to center field advanced Merrifield to third base, Ole Miss reliever Matt Tracy kept the potential tying run 90 feet away as a hot shot ground ball from pinch hitter Christian Walker went off the glove of Tracy and into the hands of second baseman Alex Yarbrough, who playing in would nab Walker at first base without Merrifield being able to score. After an intentional walk to Nick Ebert put runners on the corners, Tracy escaped without any damage as pinch hitter Parker Bangs knocked a line drive that was nabbed on a nice jump by second baseman Alex Yarbrough. Carolina would be unable to come away with a run in the eighth or ninth inning.

Tracy earned the win after 3.2 scoreless innings of relief for Ole Miss. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out two batters. Taylor worked two innings and allowed one run on one hit and suffered the loss for Carolina. He is also 2-2 on the year. Ole Miss reliever Brett Huber worked the ninth inning to earn a save.

South Carolina junior outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. had a good weekend vs. Florida with six hits against the Gators including a grand slam home run in Saturday’s 11-6 victory. Bradley leads the Gamecocks with a .364 batting average (68-for-187) with 47 runs scored, nine doubles a triple, nine HR and 43 RBI. He also has a .466 on-base percentage and .567 slugging percentage. His on-base percentage is ninth best in the SEC with his batting average also ninth best in the conference.

The Gamecocks finished for the first time in modern history (1970-present) with an undefeated record in non-conference midweek games in the regular season with a 14-0 mark.

South Carolina senior right-hander Blake Cooper has been named to USA Baseball’s 2010 Golden Spikes Award Watch List. The Golden Spikes Award is given to the top amateur player in baseball.

Despite his first loss of the season vs. Florida, Cooper had a quality start allowing just three runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings of work. In his last win two weeks ago, Cooper allowed just two runs on three hits in seven innings of work to improve to 10-0 on the year as South Carolina defeated Arkansas 3-2 in the first game of the series. The pitching match-up between Cooper and Arkansas starter Drew Smyly lived up to the billing as both guys battled and matched each other inning after inning and limited the teams to base runners through the first two-thirds of the game. Cooper struck out seven and walked two in his seven innings of work.

Cooper is now 10-1 on the year and leads the SEC in victories. Cooper has pitched a SEC high 96.1 innings and is fourth in the league in opposing batting average (.223), sixth in earned run average (3.08) and seventh in strikeouts (82. Cooper is also tied in the conference with seven SEC wins. Cooper has pitched a SEC-high 71.2 innings, is fifth in opposing batting average (.231), fifth in earned run average (3.01) in league play and sixth in strikeouts (58).

Blake Cooper’s 10th win gives him 31 now for his career at Carolina and ties him for sixth on the South Carolina career victories list with David Marchbanks (2001-03), Matt Threehouse (1989-93) and Dennis Lubert (1979-82). His 31 career victories is tied for second highest among current players in Division I. Matt Ridings of Western Kentucky leads Division I with 33 career wins with Daniel Bibona of UC Irvine also in second with 31 wins.

South Carolina Career Victories List1)  45  Kip Bouknight   1998-01        (45-12)2)  36  Tim Lewis   1973-76        (36-6)3)  35  Aaron Rawl  2002-05        (35-15)4)  34  Earl Bass   1972-75        (34-3)    34  Greg Ward   1972-75        (34-13)6)  31  Blake Cooper  2007-present        (31-13)    31  David Marchbanks2001-03        (31-8)    31  Matt Threehouse 1989-93        (31-14)    31  Dennis Lubert   1979-82        (31-9)
South Carolina Career Innings Pitched List1) 482.0 Kip Bouknight 1998-012) 370.0 Aaron Rawl 2002-053) 361.1 Jason Haynie 1993-964) 350.2 Matt Threehouse 1989-935) 345.0 Rich Pratt 1990-936) 340.1 Dennis Lubert 1979-82 340.1 Greg Ward 1972-758) 336.1 Blake Cooper 2007-present

South Carolina junior right-hander Sam Dyson earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors following his six-hit complete game shutout as the Gamecocks defeated nationally ranked Arkansas 5-0 clinching a three-game SEC baseball series at Baum Stadium. Dyson had a tremendous outing as he limited the Razorbacks, who came in ranked second in the league in hitting and runs scored, to just six hits and walked only two on the afternoon. He struck out eight batters and went to only three three-ball counts in the game. This was the second time this year that Dyson has earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. He also earned the award after he hurled a seven-inning complete game shutout in a win at Georgia on April 25. This is the fourth time this year that a Gamecock pitcher has earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors.

For the season, Dyson is 5-5 with a 3.92 ERA in 82.2 innings pitched. He has 86 strikeouts and opponents are batting just .245 against him.

With the 5-0 win at Arkansas, the Gamecocks have now won 40 or more games in 11 consecutive seasons. Heading into the year, the Gamecocks were one of only eight Division I schools to have won 40 or more games each season dating back to 2000.

South Carolina’s pitching staff has a tremendous season and it has shown with the Gamecocks ranking among the best in the conference and in the nation. Heading into the SEC Tournament, the Gamecock pitching staff leads the Southeastern Conference in opposing batting average (.230), hits allowed (425), tied for first in runs allowed (240) and is second in earned run average (2.69) and strikeouts (498).

South Carolina’s pitching staff had a tremendous weekend in Fayetteville, Ark. Heading into the week the Razorbacks were ranked second in the SEC in batting average, runs scored and slugging percentage. The Carolina staff answered the challenge and limited the Razorbacks to just five runs on 16 hits in 27 innings pitched. South Carolina’s pitching staff kept Arkansas at a .170 batting average for the weekend and the Gamecocks finished the series with a 1.67 ERA.

Heading into the final weekend of play, the Gamecock pitching staff leads the Southeastern Conference in earned run average (3.65), opposing batting average (.228), hits allowed (398) and runs allowed (226). The Gamecocks are also second in strikeouts (477).

South Carolina also leads the Southeastern Conference in SEC games in opposing batting average (.243), hits allowed (238) and is second in earned run average (3.82), strikeouts (244) and runs allowed (134).

Senior shortstop Bobby Haney has been hot at the plate lately and owns a season-high eight-game hitting streak. That has helped him raise his batting average to .265 (43-for-162) for the season with 26 runs scored. Haney tied a career-high with four hits and three runs scored in the 11-6 win over Florida.

Freshman right-hander Matt Price has been a stellar force out of the bullpen this season. The Gamecock closer is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA and has seven saves in 38.0 innings pitched with 57 strikeouts and 15 walks. Oppnents are batting just .184 against him on the year.

All seven of Price’s saves have come in SEC play that is the second highest total among SEC pitchers. His 16 SEC appearances is tied for the league high in conference play.

Another key ingredient of the bullpen has been sophomore left-hander Michael Roth, who has been key in a match-up situation. Roth is tied for fifth in the SEC in all games with 27 appearances on the year. He owns a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings and has struck out 18 batters. Opponents are batting just .237 against him. He also has three saves.

Junior right-hander Jose Mata is another key ingredient to the bullpen. In 23 appearances, Mata has a 2.45 ERA with 33.0 innings pitched. He is 6-1 on the year. Opponents are batting just .212 against him.

Whit Merrifield tallied three hits with a run scored and a RBI in the 11-6 win vs. Furman. He also homered twice including a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning as South Carolina defeated Arkansas 5-3. Merrifield is now batting .330 (77-for-233) on the year with a team-leading 12 HR and 36 RBI on the year. He leads the SEC with 65 runs scored as well as 13 sacrifice bunts. With 245 career hits, he is now tied with Hanks Small (1972-75) for ninth on the all-time hits list at Carolina.

Senior catcher Brady Thomas had a key two-run homer in the 5-0 win over Arkansas and was 3-for-3 in his last start, a 5-2 loss vs. Florida. He is batting .340 (34-for-100) on the year. 19 of his 34 hits have been extra base hits (11 doubles, one triple, seven homers).

South Carolina is now 34-4 on the year when it out-hits the opponent and 33-7 when hitting at least one home run. The Gamecocks are also 30-6 on the year when scoring first in the game. Carolina holds a 35-1 advantage when owning a lead entering the seventh inning and 6-2 when the game is tied heading into the seventh. South Carolina is 16-7 in games decided by three runs or less.