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June 24, 2010

College World Series Central

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina (49-16) and Oklahoma (50-17) will meet in an elimination game on Thursday evening at Rosenblatt Stadium in the 2010 College World Series. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET with the game televised live on ESPN2HD. The game can also be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network and at Carolina will start senior right-hander Blake Cooper (12-2, 2.92 ERA) with Oklahoma countering with junior right-hander Zach Neal (8-3, 4.65 ERA).

South Carolina senior right-hander Blake Cooper earned third-team All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball and was named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List as well.

Cooper won his 12th game of the year at the NCAA Super Regional in the 4-3 victory over Coastal Carolina. He allowed three runs on six hits in seven-plus innings of work. Cooper also was victorious in the NCAA Regional as he did not allow an earned run and struck out a career-high 12 batters as South Carolina defeated The Citadel 9-4 in the Gamecocks second game of the regional. He is 3-0 in his career in the postseason for the Gamecocks.

Cooper leads the Southeastern Conference in victories with a 12-2 record including seven wins in conference play, tying him for the most conference wins as well. Cooper has pitched a SEC high 123.1 innings. He has 110 strikeouts to 36 walks with opponents hitting just .231 against him and an ERA of 2.92. In SEC games, Cooper pitched a SEC-high 71.2 innings, was fifth in opposing batting average (.231), fifth in earned run average (3.01) and sixth in strikeouts (58).

Blake Cooper’s 12 wins on the year gives him 33 now for his career at Carolina and puts him at sixth on the South Carolina career victories list.

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)  33  Blake Cooper 2007-present        (33-14)

Sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 18 games in the 11-4 win over Arizona State. He hit a three-run homer and tied a career-high with four RBI in the victory. Bradley leads the Gamecocks with a .380 batting average (84-for-221) and has a team-high 57 RBI as well. He also leads the team with 27 multi-hit games and is tied with 14 multi-RBI games also.

Freshman outfielder Evan Marzilli has been one of the Gamecocks’ top bats in the postseason. He is now hitting .380 (27-for-71) on the year with 25 runs scored as well. Marzilli had three hits in the Tuesday win vs. Arizona State.

Freshman first baseman Christian Walker has been hot at the plate recently including a 2-for-3 day at the plate with a solo home run on Sunday vs. Oklahoma. On the year, Walker has a .314 batting average (64-for-204) with eight HR and 48 RBI.

Coming back from a first-game loss is nothing new for South Carolina at the College World Series. Carolina has lost in the first game in seven consecutive CWS appearances. However in those previous seven appearances, only twice did Carolina fall in the second game as the Gamecocks have battled back in elimination game after elimination game. In 2004, the Gamecocks won three straight games after losing the opener and in 2002 the Gamecocks made it all the way to the championship game with four straight wins after falling in the opening game. South Carolina is now 18-17 (.514) in all-time College World Series history.

The Gamecocks are 23-2 when scoring in the first inning and 33-6 on the year when scoring first. The team also owns a 38-1 record when entering the top of the seventh inning with a lead and 46-1 when owning a lead entering the top of the ninth inning. South Carolina is 18-12 in games decided by three runs or less.

South Carolina pounded out eight runs on eight hits in the bottom of the second inning and starting pitcher Sam Dyson had a quality start with 7.1 innings of work as the Gamecocks defeated Arizona State 11-4 on Tuesday afternoon in an elimination game at the College World Series.

Jackie Bradley Jr., Whit Merrifield and Adrian Morales all had home runs for the Gamecocks spearheading a 14-hit attack. Bradley finished 3-for-4 with a run scored and four RBI. That four RBI ties his career-high; it is the seventh time he has reached the mark. Merrifield finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI. Both Evan Marzilli and Adrian Morales each tallied two hits as well. All nine position starters reached base at least once with eight of nine tallying at least one hit. Arizona State was led by Deven Marrero’s 3-for-4 day at the plate.

Dyson allowed just four runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and two walks. He is now 6-5 on the year. Arizona State starter Merrill Kelly lasted only 1.2 innings and allowed eight runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts in the loss. He is now 10-3 on the year.

“I’m very proud of our team today to bounce back from a tough loss the other night,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “We played, arguably, one of the better teams in the country. (Arizona State) has been there the entire season. Certainly a difficult task for us today. Sam Dyson was outstanding. If you look at his line score, it’s impressive. But the fact that he only had three or four strikeouts against those guys, against a lot of teams, he would have had eight or nine strikeouts today, maybe even 10. That’s how good (Arizona State) is. He pitched really well and they kept fighting back.”

The big frame for South Carolina was the second inning as the Gamecock bats struck for eight hits, the most hits in an inning for Carolina this year as South Carolina broke ahead 8-0 on Arizona State. Adrian Morales and Kyle Enders each singled to start things off for Carolina. With both runners on first and second base and one out, Scott Wingo drove a RBI double down the left field line scoring both Morales and Enders. It marked Wingo’s first multi-RBI game since April 30 vs. Alabama. After an Evan Marzilli single, Whit Merrifield knocked a RBI single over the first baseman’s head allowing Wingo to score and increasing Carolina’s lead to 3-0. Jackie Bradley Jr. had the big hit in the inning then as he drove a three-run homer to left center for his team-leading 13th round tripper of the year and his second of the College World Series. That wouldn’t be the only home run of the inning though as Morales connected with a two-run blast to left field off the foul pole giving Carolina the eight-run cushion. That home run was also Morales’ second hit of the inning and his ninth home run of the year.

Carolina increased the advantage to 10-0 in the third inning. Bobby Haney led off with a double followed by a walk to Wingo and Marzilli reaching on a hit by pitch. With one out, the Gamecocks scored as Bradley also reached base on a hit by pitch that scored Wingo. That was followed up by a walk to Christian Walker scoring Marzilli.

Arizona State scored twice in the fifth inning to cut Carolina’s lead to 10-2. Austin Barnes and Drew Maggi each tallied RBI singles. The Sun Devils would add two more runs in the eighth inning with Deven Marrerro and Matt Newman collecting RBI singles. Arizona State would load the bases but Gamecock reliever Matt Price got out of the jam with consecutive strikeouts against Austin Barnes and Drew Maggi to limit ASU.

Carolina closed the scoring out in the bottom of the eighth as Whit Merrifield launched a solo home run to left field, his 13th homer of the year.

Caleb Bushyhead drove in two runs and tallied a solo home run and Garrett Buechele also homered as Oklahoma held on for a 4-3 victory over South Carolina on day two of the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. It was a wild day at Rosenblatt Stadium as the start time was delayed four hours and 15 minutes by rain with an additional two hour and one minute delay just before the start of the bottom of the sixth inning as well.

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the eighth inning, South Carolina looked to tie the game up loading the bases with a one-out single by Whit Merrifield and a pair of two-out walks to Adrian Morales and Christian Walker. Oklahoma reliever Jeremy Erben was able to get out of the jam though as Brady Thomas lined a hard shot into right field that was corralled by Cody Reine. Oklahoma got some important insurance in the bottom of the eighth on Bucechele’s solo home run to take a two-run lead. Carolina again battled in the top of the ninth as Kyle Enders singled to left field followed by a base hit to right field by pinch hitter Robert Beary. With one out, the Gamecocks then loaded the bases on a walk to Evan Marzilli. Oklahoma reliever Ryan Duke got the second out of the inning with Whit Merrifield popping up to Buechele in follow territory right near third base. Down to its final out, Carolina’s Jackie Bradley Jr. walked on four pitches scoring Enders and cutting the Sooners lead to just one run. Duke however stayed composed and was able to get Adrian Morales to fly out to center field ending the game and giving Oklahoma the victory.

Oklahoma starter Michael Rocha worked six innings and allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts to earn the win. He is 8-2 on the year. Carolina starter Blake Cooper suffered the loss and is now 12-2 for the season. He allowed three runs on six hits in five innings with five strikeouts and one walk. Oklahoma closer Ryan Duke earned his 12th save of the year with one shutout inning of relief.

“I realize (it was) a long day at the yard but despite the length and the conditions, it turned out to be a really good college baseball game,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “They took advantage of some run-scoring opportunities. Buechele gave them a little bit of a cushion there with a home run. We battled. We had some good at-bats. Never came up with a really big hit. Brady Thomas squared that ball up. I guess that was the in the eighth inning, but right at Reine. So it didn’t go down. But we battled and Oklahoma did a nice job winning the ball game.”

Oklahoma broke ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. Chris Ellison led off with a single and was sacrificed over to second base. With two outs and Ellison still on second, the Sooners grabbed the lead on a RBI single to right center by Tyler Ogle. Carolina struck back quickly to tie it at 1-1 in the top of the second inning as Christian Walker led off with a solo home run to left center, his eighth homer of the year. Walker crushed a 1-0 pitch from Rocha for his second consecutive home run in as many at bats.

The Sooners reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the second with Caleb Bushyhead delivering a solo home run to right field, his sixth round tripper of the year as Oklahoma went back ahead 2-1 on the Gamecocks. Carolina again answered with a home run as Jackie Bradley Jr. tagged his 12th homer of the season to right field knotting the game at two apiece in the top of the fourth. Oklahoma would again reclaim the lead with a single run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cody Reine opened the frame with a single and was sacrificed over. With two outs and Reine on second base, Bushyhead drove in his second run of the game with a RBI single down the right field line.

South Carolina out-hit Oklahoma 9-7 in the loss. Bradley, Walker and Thomas all had two hits apiece. Bradley now has a 17-game hitting streak on the year. Reine and Bushyhead led Oklahoma at the plate with two hits apiece as well.

South Carolina’s pitching staff continues to show why its one of the best in the country. The Gamecocks have a 3.62 team ERA with 582 strikeouts to just 211 walks in 583.2 innings. Opponents are hitting just .232 against the team also.

The Gamecocks are hitting .303 for the season (684-for-2257) with 95 homers a .396 on-base percentage and a .496 slugging percentage.

South Carolina continues to be one of the top fielding teams as well as the squad owns a .976 fielding percentage with just 60 errors in 65 games.

Freshman right-hander Matt Price is among the top relievers in the country and recently earned Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball. Price showcased his skills at the NCAA Super Regional as he earned a pair of saves vs. Coastal Carolina to help the Gamecocks clinch a spot in Omaha at the College World Series. In the first game, Price came in with the bases loaded and no outs with a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning and struck out a pair of Chanticleer batters and induced the third into a ground out to preserve the one-run lead. He worked through the ninth inning as well to pick up the save. In the clincher, Price retired all three batters he faced in the ninth inning.

Price owns a 3-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in 28 appearances and is among SEC leaders with 10 saves. He has hurled 47.2 innings and has 72 strikeouts to 18 walks. Opponents are batting just .191 against him. Price also picked up a save in the 9-5 win over The Citadel in the NCAA Regional.

Another key ingredient of the bullpen has been sophomore left-hander Michael Roth, who has been key in a match-up situation. Roth is among SEC leaders with 34 appearances on the year. He owns a 1.44 ERA in 25.0 innings and has struck out 27 batters. Opponents are batting just .207 against him. He also has three saves and has compiled a 1-1 record.