Tennessee reliever Sean Hunley struck out three consecutive USC batters with the tying run on second in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve a 5-4 win for the Vols in the rubber game of the final regular season series in Columbia. It’s Tennessee’s first series win in Columbia since 2006.
The loss drops the Gamecocks to 33-20 overall and 16-14 in the SEC, and locks them into the second game on Tuesday at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, AL.
Jeff Heinrich led off the bottom of the ninth with an opposite field double down the right field line. With three chances to score the runner, the Gamecocks came up empty. Pinch-hitter Joe Satterfield, Brady Allen and Andrew Eyster all struck out swinging against Hunley to strand the tying run at second.
The Gamecocks took a 1-0 on the first pitch of the bottom of the first as Allen led off the game for USC with his 13th homer of the season. Tennessee tied the game off Thomas Farr with a run in the top of the second, then scored four runs in the fourth on an RBI double and a three-run homer.
The Gamecocks put together a three-run rally in the eighth to cut the 5-1 lead down to 5-4. Wes Clarke doubled down the left field line for one run. Josiah Sightler got the second run home with a slow grounder to the second baseman that he turned into a single. And David Mendham knocked in the third run with a ground ball to third. With the tying run on third, Colin Burgess flied to right to end the inning.
Tennessee stater Blade Tidwell held the Gamecocks at bay after that Allen homer in the bottom of the first. The only other hit he allowed thru seven innings was a double by Allen in the third. He gave way to Hunley after yielding Clarke’s RBI double in the eighth. Tidwell picked up the win to improve to 7-3, and Hunley earned his seventh save. Farr took the loss and is 3-6.