Tigers Fall To Gamecocks, Leggett Promises Tigers 'Will Be Ready To Play Friday'

by - Correspondent -

OMAHA, Neb. - While Clemson has made a name for itself with the home run this season, South Carolina proved Wednesday it can hit the longball, too. And in doing so, the Gamecocks have set up an unlikely winner-take-all showdown for a shot at college baseball's national championship.

Trey Dyson hit two of USC's four home runs and drove in four runs Wednesday, leading the Gamecocks to a 12-4 victory over archrival Clemson in the College World Series. South Carolina has now won three consecutive games since losing its CWS opener, and will play the Tigers again Friday afternoon at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Friday's winner will advance to Saturday's national championship game.

"I'm extremely proud of our guys," USC head coach Ray Tanner said. "We play hard and sometimes things are tough. We lost the first game (in Omaha), played our way back and now we have a chance to play for a spot in the national championship game."

Dyson hit two-run homers off Steve Reba (13-4) in the fourth and Thomas Boozer in the sixth. The first home run pulled USC even at 4-4, and the second highlighted a five-run outburst in the sixth that put the Gamecocks ahead for good.

Steven Thomas had led off the inning with a homer off Reba, and later Melillo and Justin Harris added RBI base hits.

Landon Powell later homered in a three-run eighth inning, but it was Dyson's power surge that sparked the USC comeback, putting the Gamecocks in position to play for a berth in the title game for the third time in school history.

"I've been saying that Yaron Peters (who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts) has been carrying the team's offense all year," Dyson said. "Yaron didn't get a hit today, but we won the game. And in order to beat Clemson again all the players in our lineup need to contribute."

South Carolina's dominance of the game over the last five innings also seemed to spark some ill will between the teams.

Clemson head coach Jack Leggett, carefully watching his words but obviously seething, took exception to South Carolina players tossing their hats on the ground in front the dugout - signifying the "hat trick" - after Collin Mahoney struck out for the third time in the seventh inning, and Jeff Baker also for the third time an inning later.

Leggett also was upset at what he termed "bat-flipping" by USC players after home runs, apparently taking both sets of circumstances as an attempt to show up his players.

After hearing Leggett's complaints from reporters, Tanner seemed to apologize for at least part of his player's actions.

"I didn't see any bat-flipping," he said. "I don't know where that came from. But I did see the hat-throwing, and I was disappointed in it. And the players who did it know I was disappointed in it. I told them when it happened and again after the game.

"I think it was a case of kids having a good time, but using poor judgment. I don't think it was done to belittle Clemson, but regardless I was disappointed in it and the players involved heard about it."

The Gamecocks spotted Clemson an early 3-0 lead on a solo homer from Zane Green leading off the first inning and Michael Johnson's two-run shot against the 33 mph wind to right in the third.

In reality it could have been much worse. The Tigers left the bases loaded three times in the first four innings against starter Blake Taylor and first reliever Gary Bell.

"We were playing real well, then seemed to hit a wall with runners on base," Leggett said. "We left some runners on and came up dry (in key situations). They swung the bats well and we didn't."

Matt Campbell (4-2) came on to strike out Kyle Frank to leave the sacks jammed in the fourth, the first of four consecutive punchouts for the skinny lefty, and then proceeded to mow down the Tigers almost at will.

In 5 1/3 innings, his longest outing of the season, Campbell struck out a career high seven and allowed just two hits.

Clemson mounted only one threat against Campbell, putting runners on first and third with one out in the sixth. But Campbell induced Jarrod Schmidt to ground to second baseman Kevin Melillo, who started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

"Earlier this year I had control problems trying to get my curveball over the plate," said Campbell. "But coach had faith in me and put me in there, and luckily I found (control of) the curveball."

"He had a good breaking ball...he could throw it anytime in the count," Clemson's Johnson said. "He was able to throw it for strikes or bury it. It was his most effective pitch."

So these two teams meet again at 2 p.m. (EDT) Friday with a berth in the national championship game on the line. And though the momentum clearly seems to have swung in USC's favor, Leggett issued a short, simple edict to anyone within earshot.

"We will be ready to play Friday."


- Besides the hat-trick controversy, both benches were warned by home plate umpire Kevin Daugherty in the bottom of the first inning after Steve Reba's first pitch sailed over the head of USC leadoff hitter Drew Meyer.

Reba's pitch apparently was in retaliation for a high, inside fastball to Khalil Greene from Blake Taylor in the top of the inning. Taylor's pitch, which glanced off Greene's bat for a foul ball as he ducked away, came one pitch after Zane Green led off the game with a home run on Taylor's first pitch of the game.

There were no further incidents in the game.

- Dyson's two home runs marked the first time he went deep twice in the same game this season, and just the second time in his career. The previous occasion came two years ago, also against Clemson.

- Zane Green's first-inning homer was his third leadoff homer of the season, the second he's hit on the game's first pitch. All six of his home runs have come in the NCAA Tournament.

- Johnson's two-run homer in the third inning was Clemson's 112th of the season, breaking the school record set by the 1991 Tigers.

- Khalil Greene's sixth-inning double was the 94th of his career, tying the NCAA record set by Wichita State's Mark Standiford from 1985-88.

- Leggett said junior Matt Henrie, who already has a win and a save in the CWS, will start Friday's game. Tanner did not name a starting pitcher.

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