Gamecocks rule roost against top seed
Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 5:18 pm
By: By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Usually, Ray Tanner is cautioning his team about the perils of the big inning.
This time, the South Carolina coach was celebrating one.
Jackie Bradley and Adrian Morales homered during an eight-run second inning that propelled the Gamecocks to an 11-4 victory over No. 1 national seed Arizona State on Tuesday, knocking the Sun Devils out of the College World Series.
“That second inning for us — eight runs — and eight hits is the most we’ve had in one inning the entire season,” Tanner said. “We don’t score runs like that very often, but we had some big, big at-bats in that inning and gave us an opportunity to get some great runs.”
The Gamecocks were able to give starter Sam Dyson a wide comfort zone and hold off an Arizona State team that left 10 runners on base and always seemed on the verge of breaking out.
“They kept fighting back,” Tanner said. “I say many times to our team that we’ll give up some runs, let’s not give up the big inning. They tried to make it a big inning a number of times, but we were able to get some pitches or a play to stay out of it. I knew you were going to have to get 27 hard outs, and that’s what it ended up being.”
South Carolina’s Brady Thomas, who stayed in Larry Vernon’s household during the 2000 Southeast Regional in Union City, was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
The Gamecocks (49-16) play either Oklahoma or Clemson on Thursday in another elimination game. Those teams started a Bracket 2 winners’ game Tuesday night but it was suspended after a 32-minute weather delay with Clemson leading 6-1 in the top of the sixth.
The Sun Devils (52-10) lost consecutive games for the first time this season and went two-and-out at the CWS for only the third time in 22 appearances.
With Arizona State gone, the 1999 Miami Hurricanes remain the only No. 1 seed to have won the title since the tournament expanded to 64 teams that same year.
“When you’re down eight runs, it gets to you and makes you think,” ASU right fielder Kole Calhoun said. “Our mindset was to chip away, not chase the scoreboard, but an eight-run deficit is pretty hard to overcome, especially against a team like South Carolina.”
Dyson (6-5) allowed two runs through seven innings, then was relieved by Matt Price after allowing two runs in the eighth.
Price struggled at first, giving up two singles and hitting a batter to load the bases, but he caught Austin Barnes looking at strike three and then struck out Drew Maggi after running the count to 3-0.
“Price wasn’t feeling real well today, but he gutted it up,” Tanner said.
Whit Merrifield finished a 3-for-5 game with his 13th homer to give the Gamecocks a seven-run lead.
The eight-run second was Arizona State’s worst inning in 196 games, since giving up nine in a 14-5 loss to Arizona on May 25, 2007.
All eight were charged to Merrill Kelly (10-3), who was pulled after Morales homered off the left-field foul pole.
Kelly, the Tampa Bay Rays’ eighth-round draft pick, was tagged for 10 hits in 1 2/3 innings, the second straight disappointing performance by an ASU starting pitcher. Previously unbeaten ace Seth Blair walked four of the first 12 batters he faced and gave up five runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings in Monday’s 6-3 loss to Clemson.
“I wouldn’t say he didn’t have it,” ASU coach Tim Esmay said of Kelly. “They had a couple seeing-eye (hits) and then, boom, their big players show up in big games. Their guys took some good swings and finished off some at-bats. Merrill Kelly was pitching his tail off.”
Five of South Carolina’s first six batters reached base in the second inning before Bradley launched a three-run shot into the bleachers in left center for his 13th homer, and Morales finished the barrage with a two-run homer, his ninth.
The Gamecocks added two runs in the third when Mitchell Lambson hit a batter and walked another with the bases loaded.
Bradley, who went 3 for 4 and extended his hitting streak to 18 games, matched his career high with four RBI.
ASU’s Riccio Torrez had his 26-game hitting streak end. He was hit by pitches twice, struck out twice and flied out.
Dyson gave up four runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Price allowed three hits in 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
The game was delayed seven minutes in the middle of the seventh inning after home-plate umpire David Savage left to be treated for heat-related symptoms. Second-base umpire Kelly Gonzales took over behind the plate.