South Carolina's bats heated up at the right time on a chilly Tuesday night at Fluor Field in Greenville.
Jake Williams ended a pitchers' duel in the bottom of the seventh inning, blasting a three-run home run off Clemson's Joseph Moorefield and giving the Gamecocks a 4-1 lead.
No. 4 South Carolina (9-1) held on to beat No. 10 Clemson (7-3) 5-4 in the neutral-site finale and clinch the three-game series 2-1.
Head coach Ray Tanner said he told his players to play with emotion after a pair of controversial shots from Clemson on Sunday: That included Clemson's Will Lamb calling USC starter Tyler Webb "soft" as well as Clemson accusations that USC's bats were being heated in order to make them more flexible and “livelier.”
After the three-game series that lasted five days, a visibly upset Tanner said he wasn't happy with either accusation.
"I didn’t appreciate it, I’m offended by it. I don’t cheat," Tanner said. "I don’t allow my players to cheat. We haven’t done anything wrong. I felt like we were called out a little bit. I don’t appreciate what Will Lamb said about one of my pitchers. I just don’t think what happened is appropriate. It’s not what this rivalry is about. ... It's two very good baseball teams at the collegiate level playing against each other. That's where it should start. That's where it should end."
The bad blood started in the first inning Sunday when the Tigers questioned whether Gamecock slugger Jackie Bradley Jr. had applied heat to his bat before hitting a homer to left field. Then, during a postgame interview, Lamb called Webb "soft."
The teams sniped back and forth over the next two days, though Tanner said no rule bans teams from using devices to keep their bats warm.
Tanner said his relationship with Clemson coach Jack Leggett had suffered. But he said he wouldn't make the first move and call Leggett.
"I felt like we were called out. We had to put up with some shenanigans," Tanner said. "We've had a geat baseball rivalry. It's been all about baseball. It was taken out of context a little bit. I didn't appeciate it. My players didn't appreciate it."
Bradley, who finished 2-for-4 with a run scored Tuesday, admitted the extra motivation heading into the final series game.
"We were just a little fired up and ready to get back on the field and prove that we're a tougher team," he said.
The final game lacked controversy but had its share of drama.
The Gamecocks were held scoreless until the seventh inning. A high chopper by Peter Mooney scored Christian Walker from third to tie the game at 1.
Then, Williams pinch-hit for Robert Beary and sent Moorefield's second pitch over the centerfield wall, scoring Peter Mooney and Adrian Morales. An inning later, a Walker single drove in Jackie Bradley Jr. to make it 5-1 Gamecocks.
Williams, a Greenville native who went to Riverside High School, said his contribution adds more to the rivalry's meaning to him.
"It meant a lot to begin with, but now it's an even greater feeling," he said.
USC freshman Jake Watson replaced Scott Wingo in the starting lineup after Wingo missed the team bus from Columbia. Watson played three innings and had one at-bat before Wingo entered the game.
The home plate umpire also warned both dugouts in the first inning. After the game, Tanner said the warning came after excessive player chatter from both dugouts.
Gamecocks starter Adam Westmoreland pitched 5.1 innings before giving way to Bryan Harper and Forrest Koumas. Koumas (1-0) struck out three and picked up the win.
After Koumas loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning, USC turned to Michael Roth and Matt Price. Clemson managed three runs to close the gap to 5-4, but Price recorded a strikeout to end the game.
"It had nothing to do with us winning or losing tonight, but we responded," Tanner said. "Our guys were not very happy that they got called out. I don't think that's part of the game. We tried to come in here and play aggressive and play with emotion, and I think it's OK. I'm proud of our players. We responded."
Tanner said if he had complaints about the Tigers, he would go directly to Leggett.
"If I've got a problem, I'll handle it personally," Tanner said. "I would have really appreciated it if he would have confronted me face to face about any situation. He never has done that."
USC won 6-3 Friday at Carolina Stadium, with Clemson winning 10-5 Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The neutral-site game was supposed to be played Saturday, but rainy weather delayed the contest until Tuesday. There were 7,125 in attendance at Fluor Field.
"I really expected nothing less out of this series," Walker said. "It worked out in our favor."
Since 2007, South Carolina has beat Clemson in 14 of 20 meetings between the schools.
Tuesday's game was scoreless until Clemson's Richie Shaffer hit a two-out solo home run in the top of the fourth inning off Westmoreland. The Tigers threatened again in the fifth with runners on first and second, but USC third baseman Adrian Morales fielded a line drive and turned a double-play to end the inning.
"We got a win out of it," Bradley said. "We're going to move on and get ready for the next game."
South Carolina returns home Wednesday to play Davidson. The Gamecocks then host Cal State Bakersfield for a three-game series that starts Friday.
Ray Tanner, Christian Walker postgame
|Chris Epps rf||3||0||0||0||1||1||5||0||0|
|Brad Miller ss||3||1||2||0||1||0||1||2||0|
|Jeff Schaus lf||4||1||1||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Richie Shaffer 1b||3||2||1||1||1||0||9||1||2|
|John Hinson 3b||4||0||2||1||0||0||1||2||0|
|Spencer Kieboom c||4||0||1||0||0||0||4||1||0|
|Will Lamb cf||4||0||2||1||0||2||1||0||0|
|Phil Pohl dh||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jon McGibbon ph||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1|
|Jason Stolz 2b||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||3||1|
|David Haselden p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Alex Frederick p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Joseph Moorefield p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Dominic Leone p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Marzilli lf||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|Jackie Bradley Jr. cf||4||1||2||0||0||0||3||0||1|
|Christian Walker 1b||3||1||1||1||1||0||11||0||1|
|Brady Thomas c||3||0||0||0||0||1||6||2||0|
|Adrian Morales 3b||3||1||2||0||1||1||1||2||0|
|Peter Mooney ss||4||1||2||1||0||0||2||2||2|
|Robert Beary dh||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Jake Williams ph||1||1||1||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jake Watson 2b||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||0|
|Scott Wingo 2b||1||0||0||0||1||0||2||4||0|
|Adam Westmoreland p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bryan Harper p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Forrest Koumas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Michael Roth p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Matt Price p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
E - Walker(2). DP - CU 1; S. Carolina 3. LOB - CU 4; S. Carolina 5. 2B - Bradley Jr.(5). 3B - LAMB(1). HR - SHAFFER(2); Williams(1). SH - Marzilli(4); Thomas(1). SB - MILLER(5); Walker(2). CS - EPPS(1).
|Alex Frederick L,0-1||0.1||2||3||3||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||4||0||1||18|
|Forrest Koumas W,1-0||2.1||3||3||3||1||3||0||0||0||0||9||10||2||1||39|
|Matt Price S,4||1.0||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||3||3||0||1||10|
Win - Koumas (1-0). Loss - FREDERICK (0-1). Save - Price (4). WP - Harper(2). Pitches/strikes: HASELDEN 75/52; FREDERICK 18/9; MOOREFIELD 23/15; LEONE 12/6; Westmoreland 77/48; Harper 6/3; Koumas 39/22; Roth 4/2; Price 10/8.
Umpires - HP: Scott Erby 1B: Jeff Head 2B: Greg Street 3B: Morris Hodges
Start: 7:07 pm
Koumas faced 3 batters in the 9th.
Roth faced 1 batter in the 9th.