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Surprise homers save Gamecocks

GREENVILLE — Scott Wingo thought it would be a great night for a home run, what with friends and family watching. He also knew it was a long shot.

Phil Disher, on the other hand, was a likely candidate to hit one out of the park. He just had no intention of doing so when he came to the plate with the game tied in the ninth inning on Tuesday.

Both unlikely moments happened anyway, producing all the runs USC’s baseball team needed in a 5-3 victory against Furman.

Disher’s three-run homer in the ninth inning broke a 2-2 tie, which had been created by Wingo’s two-run shot in the sixth. That was enough for the Gamecocks, who earned their 30th win and avoided being swept by the Paladins.

“They pitched us extremely well; Nick (Godwin) pitched them extremely well,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “We just got a couple home runs that made the difference.”

Technically, Tuesday’s game at Fluor Field — the home of the minor league Greenville Drive — was a home game for Furman (23-15). But most of the announced crowd of 6,241 was rooting for USC (30-11).

“It was like a home away from home, with as many Gamecocks fans as were here,” Disher said. “A great place, and so many fans it was a great night for us.”

Those fans were antsy when Furman took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning. Then Wingo — a Greenville native — blasted an opposite-field shot over the 30-foot wall in left field. The stadium is modeled after Fenway Park.

It was only the third homer of the season for Wingo, who bats ninth in USC’s lineup. He entered Tuesday with a .195 batting average.

“To tell you the truth, I kinda wanted to hit a home run tonight,” Wingo said. “But you know what, that doesn’t happen at all hardly, and I got a little lucky and put one outta here.”

Disher entered the game tied with Justin Smoak and James Darnell with the team lead at 13 homers. But he was thinking smaller when he came up in the ninth inning, with runners on second and third and one out.

Instead he took the first pitch from Furman reliever Nic Karow and blasted it to left-center.

“I was just trying to put the ball in the outfield somewhere, sac fly, (or) on the ground and get it through the infield that was in, and get us a run,” Disher said. “I was just trying to put us ahead.”

Both Disher and Wingo’s homers came off relievers facing their first batter.

USC’s two relievers earned the win (Parker Bangs) and the save (Brandon Todd, who left the tying run on first base in the ninth). But starting pitcher Godwin had the best night.

The right-hander had a career-high 10 strikeouts, including five of the first six batters. He began the game with six consecutive outs and retired the last 15 batters he faced. He also picked two runners off first base.

“The first part and the last part of the game I was locating my fastball pretty well and getting ahead in the count,” Godwin said. “The middle part I struggled a little bit. ... I had to calm myself back down and work on placing the ball better than I had in those third and fourth innings.”

Crisp starts. USC junior Andrew Crisp played for the first time since re-injurying his back during an outfield collision on April 13 at Auburn. Crisp started in left field, going 0-for-2 and getting hit by a pitch once, before being pulled in the eighth inning.

“I thought he was a little bit rusty, but he’s playing,” Tanner said. “He’s out there, and he got on base for us, you know that was big. But you’ve gotta knock the rust off a little bit.”

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.