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June 26, 2010

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College World Series Central

Post-Game Press Conference
Erin Andrews’ Post-Game Interview

OMAHA, Neb. – Consecutive two-out RBI singles from Christian Walker and Adrian Morales broke a 2-2 tie and freshman right-hander Matt Price came on in relief to earn his fourth win of the season as South Carolina defeated Clemson 4-3 on Friday evening at Rosenblatt Stadium to advance to the championship series of the 2010 College World Series. Carolina is now 52-16 on the year and will play UCLA for the national title beginning on Monday night with first pitch set for 7:30 p.m. ET and the game televised live on ESPNHD and also available on the Gamecock Radio Network and at Game two of the series is set for Tuesday and will also be at 7:30 p.m. If necessary, there will be a game three on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. as well. Clemson ends the season with a 45-25 record.

A see-saw affair saw the Gamecocks and Tigers knotted at two apiece heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. That’s when Carolina made its final move as Evan Marzilli reached base with one out on a hit by pitch against Clemson starter Casey Harman. With Alex Frederick on in relief for Clemson, Whit Merrifield struck out swinging. However, on the play, Marzilli stole second base and advanced on a throwing error by Clemson catcher Spencer Kieboom. With Marzilli in scoring position, Clemson elected to intentionally walk Jackie Bradley Jr. that brought Christina Walker up to the plate. On Frederick’s 3-1 pitch, Walker roped a RBI single to left center scoring Marzilli and giving the Gamecocks a one-run lead. That was followed up by a RBI base hit by Adrian Morales scoring Bradley and putting the Gamecocks ahead 4-2. With Carolina ahead by two runs, the Tigers mounted a rally as John Hinson reached base on a triple to right after both Merrifield and Wingo collided going for the ball. Hinson would then score on Brad Miller’s RBI ground out to bring the Tigers back within a run. Clemson mounted one final rally in the top of the ninth as Mike Freeman reached base with two outs on a single up the middle. But Matt Price kept the game in check and was able to get Jeff Schaus to ground out on a sharp ground ball to first baseman Christian Walker preserving a victory for the Gamecocks.

Price is now 4-1 on the year after allowing one run on three hits in 2.1 innings with three strikeouts. Harman suffered the loss despite a quality start for the Tigers. He allowed three runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings with five strikeouts and no walks.

“(It was) a heck of a ball game, no question about it” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “You know, two teams that are extremely familiar with each other. The numbers were almost identical. We left about the same number they did on base. (Both teams) had about the same number of hits. Guys competing all over the place. Pitchers battling hard, making plays. And we came up with a couple of two-out hits there in (the seventh). (Kyle) Enders tried to give us a little bit of insurance, but (Wilson Boyd) ran that ball down the alley. And it’s one of those games that’s very common when we play Clemson. We’re very fortunate to be able to continue to play. I’m proud of these guys up here and our team. We’ve just battled and tried to stay in the position all night long. It’s very difficult to do against a team as talented and as good as Clemson is. Like I said, a very evenly matched game and we get to play now in the national championship.”

In an even contest, the Gamecocks finished with nine hits to the Tigers eight on the evening. Merrifield went 3-for-5 with Walker going 2-for-4 and driving in two runs. Marzilli also scored two runs. Bradley extended his hitting streak to 21 games as well. John Hinson was 2-for-3 with a run scored and Mike Freeman was 2-for-5 to lead Clemson at the plate.

South Carolina broke ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. Three consecutive singles by Evan Marzilli, Whit Merrifield and Jackie Bradley Jr. put the Gamecocks in position to score. Harman limited the damage though as he induced Christian Walker into a 4-6-3 double play that scored Marzilli.

Clemson would tie the game 1-1 in the top of the third inning. Will Lamb reached base on a hit by pitch and advanced to third on Mike Freeman’s single to right center. Lamb scored on a RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Schaus. Dyson would limit the damage for Carolina as well though as he struck out John Hinson swinging with two runners on to maintain the tie.

Carolina regained the lead at 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning on a solo home run from Walker, his ninth of the season and third of the NCAA Tournament. Walker crushed a 2-2 pitch from Harman over the wall in left center to give the Gamecocks a one-run lead. Clemson tied it at 2-2 in the seventh inning as the Tigers scored after a fielder’s choice on a throwing error by second baseman Scott Wingo.

The national championship series will be the fourth time in school history that the Gamecocks will play for a national title in collegiate baseball. South Carolina finished as national runner-up in 1975 (vs. Texas), 1977 (vs. Arizona State and 2002 (vs. Texas). This is head coach Ray Tanner’s second appearance in the national title match-up in his fourth trip to the College World Series.

South Carolina advanced to the national championship series with four straight victories. After falling to Oklahoma 4-3 in the CWS opener, the Gamecocks defeated Arizona State 11-4, Oklahoma 3-2 (12 inn.), and Clemson twice, 5-1, and 4-3.

South Carolina and UCLA have only met once on the baseball diamond. The Bruins defeated the Gamecocks on March 23, 1972, 10-4 in a tournament in Riverside, Calif.