One more win.
That’s all the South Carolina baseball team needs to reach an NCAA Super Regional for the first time in three years after defeating The Citadel 9-4 in the regional winners’ bracket game before a Saturday night crowd of 7,418 at Carolina Stadium.
The Bulldogs (43-21) fall into the losers’ bracket to play Virginia Tech (39-21) at 2 p.m. today. The top-seeded Gamecocks (45-15) will play the winner of that game at 7 p.m. and would claim the regional title with a victory. If they lose that one, the if-necessary game would be Monday night.
USC rode the strong right arm of senior Blake Cooper again. He allowed four runs — none earned — and struck out a career-high 12 over 7 1/3 innings to run his record to 11-1.
“I just wanted to go out and do what I’ve done all year,” Cooper said.
He did just that to put the Gamecocks where they want to be.
“I thought Blake Cooper was the difference-maker on their side of the field tonight,” The Citadel coach Fred Jordan said.
The Gamecocks pounded out 14 hits, with Adrian Morales getting three hits and a homer for the second consecutive game. They are 3-0 against the Bulldogs this season, and ran their record against them in NCAA play to 6-0 over five regionals dating to 1975. The win snapped The Citadel’s 13-game winning streak, and it puts USC where it was a year ago, when it lost consecutive games to East Carolina on the road.
USC coach Ray Tanner, who expects right-hander Jay Brown to draw the start, hopes his team can avoid a Monday showdown game.
“We’re going to try to stay aggressive, and let Adrian Morales do the talking,” said Tanner.
The junior college transfer, who is in his first season with the Gamecocks and has evolved into a team leader, does not expect last season’s bad memories to play a part.
“This is a different team, and we’re going to try to go in tomorrow and take the game,” said Morales, who has seven homers and a team-high 51 RBIs.
USC scored five runs in the seventh inning to take a 7-4 lead when Bulldog age Asher Wojciechowski began to labor. Evan Marzilli tied the game with a pinch-hit, two-run single after Bobby Haney and Scott Wingo singled — Wingo’s came on a bunt — and moved to second and third on a balk. After Wojciechowski wild-pitched the go-ahead run home, Morales sealed his fate with an RBI double to right-field. Christian Walker added an RBI double off reliever Drew Mahaffey.
“We kept scrapping and were able to come up with the big hit from Marzilli,” Tanner said.
The hard-throwing Wojciechowski (12-3), who threw 132 pitches Saturday night after pitching twice in the Southern Conference tournament the week before, gave up seven runs on nine hits, threw three wild pitches and hit two batters.
“We were able to run up his pitch count and get some big base hits,” Morales said.
Wojciechowski did use his consistent 93-to-94 mph fastball, however, to strike out 11 Gamecocks and run his season total to a nation-leading 155.
“I felt good out there,” said Wojciechowski, who insisted he was not fatigued. “I didn’t make the right pitches at the right time. They’re a good team so they hit them.”
Cooper, who threw 118 pitches, departed after he ran into trouble with one out in the eighth inning. But reliever Matt Price, who earned his eighth save with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, bailed him out with a bases-loaded, 1-2-3 double play on a comebacker to the mound off the bat of David Greene.
The Citadel cut the lead to 2-1 in the fourth on Kyle Jordan’s RBI single, which followed Citadel batters reaching on a strikeout and wild pitch and a hit batsman. Cooper’s tough luck followed the next inning, when Brad Felder struck out to end the inning on a ball in the dirt, but Kyle Enders’ high throw allowed him to reach base. After a single by Matt Simonelli, Bryan Altman blasted a three-run homer to left for a 4-2 lead.
South Carolina struck first when Brady Thomas led off the second inning with a single off Wojciechowski. Two outs later, Thomas stood on third when Enders lifted a towering fly ball that carried out to the concourse past the left-field fence for a two-run homer.
Coach Tanner on USC's win over the Citadel
Players comment on win over the Citadel