Fluor Field, Greenville: A three-run homer in the seventh inning by Carson Hornung gave USC their first lead in the series with Clemson, and a two-run homer in the eighth by Cole Messina provided the Gamecocks with the insurance runs in a wild 11-9 win over the Tigers Saturday afternoon at Fluor Field in Greenville in front of 7215 fans.
The Gamecocks evened the series at 1-1 with the deciding game Sunday at Founders Park in Columbia. USC also broke a five game losing streak to the Tigers. The Gamecocks are 10-1 and the Tigers are 5-5.
You wouldn’t know it from the 20 runs on the scoreboard, but this was a pitcher’s duel for the first half of the game. Clemson starter Tristan Smith shutout the Gamecocks on one hit over five innings. USC starter Noah Hall limited the Tigers to no runs and one hit over the first four innings.
The offenses heated up starting in the fifth. The Tigers put three runs on the board and the Gamecocks answered with a three spot in the sixth. The Tigers went back on top in the seventh when they batted around and scored four runs, and they looked in good shape to take a series clinching win.
USC, however, responded with five runs in the bottom of the seventh. The big blow was Hornung’s second home run of the season on a 1-2 pitch from Jay Dill, a three run shot to right center that gave the Gamecocks an 8-7 lead.
Cade Austin came in to start the 8th for USC and after a leadoff walk, he set down the next three Tigers to preserve the lead. Messina then delivered his high arcing home run that hit the New York Life building standing behind the left field green wall. The blast was measured at 390 feet.
The Gamecocks took an 11-7 lead to the top of the ninth and called on Chris Veach to close it out. Caden Grice struck out looking for the first out, and then was ejected for arguing, and is thus expected to have to sit out Sunday’s game based on what both coaches’ interpretation of the rules.
The next two Tigers reached on a walk and a double. Ben Blackwell popped up to third for the second out, and then Will Taylor delivered a two-run single through the left side to cut the lead to 11-9. Chad Fairey walked to bring the go ahead run to the plate in Gavin Abrams, who homered Friday night. Abrams grounded out to second to end the game.
Matthew Becker earned the victory in relief for the Gamecocks and Dill took the loss. Jack Mahoney will start game three for USC Sunday while the Clemson starter is TBA.