GREENVILLE, N.C. - A day after the South Carolina baseball team erased some of the lingering memories of the sudden end to the 2009 season, the Gamecocks were given a fresh reminder of it.
Host East Carolina rallied from a 3-2 deficit, rocking Gamecocks closer John Taylor for three consecutive hits in the bottom of the ninth inning and stealing a 4-3 victory that tied the three-game series at one apiece.
The teams will play at 1 p.m. today to decide it.
"It was a great college baseball game, one that I really would have liked to have won," Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. "Even in the ninth inning when they bunched some hits together, (Taylor) got some ground balls but they were in the hole, so give East Carolina credit on a great comeback."
With two outs in the ninth and South Carolina clinging to a 3-2 lead, ECU third baseman Corey Thompson cranked an RBI single off the glove of USC shortstop Bobby Haney, allowing Austin Homan to score from second base and tie the game at 3.
Following a single by catcher Zach Wright to place runners on first and second, center fielder Trent Whitehead knocked the game-winner into shallow center field to deal the Gamecocks (4-1) their first defeat since losing to the Pirates in extra innings and being eliminated from last year's regional.
"When you put two good teams together, a lot of things are going to happen," said Tanner, whose team won the first game of the series 6-2 on Friday. "We won a close one (Friday) and they won a close one today. Tomorrow should be a great one."
Taylor (0-1) suffered the loss, while ECU closer Seth Simmons (1-0) notched the win for the Pirates (3-3).
The loss wiped away a bright start from South Carolina's Sam Dyson, who struck out five and allowed two hits in four innings before giving way to reliever Jimmy Revan. In all, the Gamecocks used five pitchers for the second day in a row.
ECU starter Kevin Brandt pitched seven innings but also settled for a no decision.
Catcher Kyle Enders hit his third double in two days and, along with Haney, had two of USC's eight hits.
South Carolina took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when Adam Matthews roped a triple just inside the right field line to score Nick Ebert and Enders.
It didn't last, however, as ECU designated hitter Kyle Roller took Dyson deep in the bottom of the fourth, a two-run blast to center field that knotted the game at 2-2.
The Gamecocks retook the lead in the seventh thanks to an ECU gaffe. With two outs in the inning, Pirate right fielder Devin Harris had a routine fly ball from Whit Merrifield glance off his glove and to the ground, and Merrifield reached second base easily.
Adrian Morales followed by steering an RBI single into shallow right to put the Gamecocks in front, 3-2.
Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 19 games.