USC scored seven runs thru the middle innings and catcher Chris Cullen made a game-saving play in the top of the 8th as the Gamecocks defeated Tennessee 7-6 Friday night at chilly Founders Park. The win allows the Gamecocks to keep pace with Florida in the SEC East at 8-2 and improves their overall mark to 26-5. The Gamecocks are 20-1 at home.
LT Tolbert cracked a two run homer in the bottom of the 4th to break a 1-1 tie. It was his second home run of the season.
The Vols scored a run in the 5th and the Gamecocks responded with three in the bottom of the frame on a bases loaded walk to Tolbert and a two run double by TJ Hopkins.
The Gamecocks made it 7-2 in the 6th on a RBI single from Dom Thompson-Williams and appeared to be in control of the game. But starter Clarke Schmidt was removed to start the 7th after 115 pitches and the Vols scored four runs off Brandon Murray and Tyler Johnson to cut the lead to 7-6. Johnson was able to get out of the inning stranding runners at second and third.
Josh Reagan, who had to deal with kidney stones earlier in the week, entered in the 8th and quickly got two outs. The Vols then loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch only to see Cullen field a tapper out on the infield grass and just get the runner at first to end the threat.
The Vols got the tying run to third with two outs in the 9th but Reagan got a weak fly ball to left to end the game.
Schmidt earned the victory to improve to 7-1. He yielded 1 earned run and scattered 9 hits over 6 innings while striking out 10 and walking 3. Reagan earned his 9th save allowing 1 hit and walking 3 over 2 innings of work.