Fifth ranked South Carolina stormed back from seven runs down in the final two innings to rally for an 8-7 win over Liberty in the first game of a doubleheader at Carolina Stadium. Kyle Martin knocked a RBI single that went off of Liberty pitcher Josh Richardson and after an errant throw by catcher Trey Wimmer, the Gamecocks would score the winning run as Graham Saiko crossed over home plate with the winning run setting off the celebration.
Trailing 7-3 entering the ninth inning, the Gamecocks began the rally as TJ Costen walked, Dante Rosenberg singled and Tanner English walked to load the bases. A walk to Chase Vergason scored Costen and cut the deficit to three runs. After a second straight walk to Graham Saiko, the Gamecocks were within two runs with the bases loaded and no outs. Max Schrock would bring Carolina one run closer as a RBI groundout to the first baseman scored Tanner English. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Liberty would get the second out of the inning with a strikeout by reliever Josh Richardson. That set the scene for Martin. After working the count to 3-1, the Gamecock pinch hitter roped a line drive that caught Richardson on the leg on the mound. The ball rolled close to home plate. As Martin rushed down the line, Wimmer looked to make a play at first base. His throw wouldn't make it though and his throw got away from first baseman Alex Close allowing both pinch runner Shon Carson and Saiko to score leading the Gamecocks to the victory.
South Carolina left-hander Adam Westmoreland earned the win after 2.1 innings of relief. He allowed two runs, both unearned on two hits. He struck out two batters. Richardson suffered the loss after 0.2 innings of relief. He allowed one run, unearned, on one hit with two walks and a strikeout.
The Flames broke ahead 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning. Nick Paxton led off with a walk, Ryan Cordell singled and after both runners advanced on a wild pitch, Bryan Aanderud would also walk to load the bases for the Flames. Holmes would minimize the damage though as he coaxed Alex Close into a 4-6-3 double play that scored Paxton.
Liberty starting pitcher Brooks Roy was effective in five innings of work. He did not allow a run and limited the Gamecocks to one hit and three walks. South Carolina starter Colby Holmes allowed two runs on three hits in 6.1 innings of work.
Liberty capitalized on a couple of Gamecock mistakes with five of their six runs unearned in the seventh inning to increase the lead to 7-0. After a single and two walks loaded the bases with one out, Sammy Taormina drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to center field. The Flames loaded the bases again after a pitch from Gamecock reliever Joel Seddon nicked Liberty batter Nick Lacik. With Adam Westmoreland on in relief, the Gamecocks looked to get out of the jam on a grounder by Nick Paxton. However, the ball would get by shortstop Joey Pankake to score another run for the Flames. Ryan Cordell then cleared the bases for the Flames as his double to left field scored three more runs.
The Gamecocks broke through on the scoreboard in the eighth inning with three runs off of Liberty reliever Matt Marsh. Tanner English led off with a single, Chase Vergason was hit by a pitch and Graham Saiko singled to load the bases with no outs. Max Schrock would drive in English with a RBI groundout, Joey Pankake tallied a RBI with a sacrifice fly to center to score Vergason and LB Dantzler would knock in Saiko with a RBI single.
Liberty scored twice in the top of the fourth inning and held off a late rally by fifth ranked South Carolina to upend the Gamecocks 3-2 in the final game of a doubleheader on Sunday played in seven innings at Carolina Stadium. Despite the loss, the Gamecocks won the series and are now 2-1 on the year with Liberty 1-2 after the first weekend of play.
The Flames got three big hits in the nightcap with Ryan Cordell and Dalton Britt each tallying triples and Justin Sizemore going 2-for-3 with a solo homer. Joey Pankake was 2-for-2 with a run scored and a RBI in the loss for the Gamecocks. Graham Saiko also had two hits for Carolina.
Liberty starter Trey Lambert earned the win after allowing just one run on five hits in 5.1 innings with one walk and four strikeouts. South Carolina starter Nolan Belcher suffered the loss after going 5.2 innings allowing three runs on four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts. The nine strikeouts are the most for Belcher in a game since he struck out 11 on May, 15 2009 in a win over Georgia as a freshman.
Liberty would break out with a run in the top of the first inning. Cordell tripled to right-center as his ball went just out of the grasp of Gamecock center fielder Tanner English. He would score on a RBI infield single by Bryan Aanderud in between third and shortstop.
The Gamecocks tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the third inning. English led off with a single followed by a base hit off the bat of Graham Saiko. Pankake would drive in English with one-out on a sacrifice fly to right field.
Liberty regained the lead in the top of the fourth inning on a solo home run by Justin Sizemore. The Liberty left fielder knocked a 1-1 pitch from Gamecock starter Nolan Belcher over the left field wall. Liberty then added to it as Trey Wimmer walked with two outs and scored on Dalton Britt's triple to right-center that increased the lead to 3-1.
Carolina crept to within a run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Pankake doubled to open the frame and scored on a one-out sacrifice fly by Erik Payne to right field. The Gamecocks threatened to tie it in the bottom of the seventh. TJ Costen led off with a walk. He, however, would be gunned down at second base on a sac bunt attempt by Tanner English. The Gamecocks then tried to move the runners with a hit and run but Liberty reliever Ashton Perritt was able to throw a fastball by Saiko and catcher Trey Wimmer was able to nab English at second base to end the Carolina threat.
South Carolina returns to action next weekend hosting a three-game series with Albany at Carolina Stadium. First pitch for the opener on Friday is 3 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday's contests at 1:30 p.m.