Records fall as USC rolls past Valpo

Merrifield sets hitting mark; pitchers strike out 18 batters

Special to The StateMarch 10, 2010 

Whit Merrifield broke a South Carolina record by getting a hit in his 26th consecutive game during the Gamecocks' 7-3 victory against Valparaiso on Wednesday at misty Carolina Stadium.

But he wasn't the only USC player to etch his name in the record book. Jimmy Revan, Matt Price and Parker Bangs combined to strike out 18 batters, tying the school record for most strikeouts in a game. Perhaps more important, though, the trio allowed two hits and three walks in the outing.

The strikeout record has been reached seven times, most recently before Wednesday against Auburn in 2006.

"It doesn't happen very often," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "Other than one game, our pitching staff has done a good job for us and put us in a position to win."

Merrifield started his streak last year when he hit safely in the final 14 games of the season. By having a hit in the first 12 games this year, he broke the previous mark of 25 consecutive games with a hit set by Greg Keatley in 1976.

Keatley still owns the single-season mark, but Merrifield, a junior from Advance, NC., has reason to be proud.

"With all the great players that have come through here, to be able to say I've done something they haven't done is pretty special," Merrifield said. "I would say it's a little easier to do it over two years than to do it over a year. It's a tough thing to accomplish but, hopefully, I will keep it going. It's a special moment."

Merrifield - whose parents and younger brother were in attendance - broke the record when he singled to right field in the second inning to score Scott Wingo.

"He is the kind of guy that you would like to see break a record," Tanner said. "He shows up and plays for you every day, plays hard. He's a team guy and I think the hit that broke the record was fitting. It was the other way."

USC's trio of pitchers feasted on the Crusader (3-11) hitters. Revan, making his first start, started slowly but settled down to strike out seven in four innings.

In the first, he hit a batter and walked another and Valparaiso scored an unearned run without the benefit of a hit. Third baseman Christian Walker threw wildly after fielding a grounder to first to push the run across.

Matt Price pitched the next four innings and struck out eight. Price allowed a single in the sixth inning to improve to 2-0.

Price missed almost all of last year and received a medical redshirt after fracturing his right wrist on a fielding play at The Citadel on March 31. He had pitched in seven games to that point.

"Coming back from injury was tough, but I fought through it," the Sumter native said.

Price struck out the final five batters he faced. Parker Bangs struck out the side in the ninth as USC closed the game with eight strikeouts in a row.

The Gamecocks wereunable to bunch any runs together, but did enough offensively. Brady Thomas made his second consecutive start - this time at DH - and he went 2-for-3 to lead the nine-hit attack. Thomas tripled in the second and scored on a wild pitch for the first USC run.

Adrian Morales, Nick Ebert and Robert Beary delivered RBI hits. The Gamecocks took advantage of three Valparaiso errors to score three unearned runs.

"I was impressed with their arms," Tanner said. "They kept us from breaking some games open."

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