Gamecocks capture Columbia regional with 6-4 win over Liberty
COLUMBIA, S.C. South Carolina defeated Liberty 6-4 on Monday afternoon to claim the NCAA Columbia Regional title at Carolina Stadium, securing the program's fourth straight trip to the Super Regionals.
It will be the Gamecocks' (42-18) 11th trip to the Super Regionals in the last 14 years, which ranks second in the nation behind Florida State during that span. The win is South Carolina's 27th-straight postseason win at home, including a 16-0 mark at Carolina Stadium.
South Carolina tallied nine hits in the contest, including a 2-for-4 effort from senior LB Dantzler and sophomore Tanner English. Dantzler also drove in a game-high two runs.
Senior right-hander Colby Holmes (5-2) worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win, surrendering two hits and striking out one batter. The win is Holmes' first since April 7 at Tennessee. Senior left-hander Tyler Webb earned his 17th save of the season after allowing one run and two hits and fanning three to close out the final 1 1/3 innings.
Liberty (36-29) collected 12 hits, with senior Justin Sizemore going 3-for-5 to lead the way. Senior Bryan Aanderud, sophomore Alex Close and junior Nick Paxton added two hits apiece in the loss.
Flames starting hurler Ashton Perritt (3-2) was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs and six hits, walking four and striking out two in four innings on the mound.
The Gamecocks got their offense going early as they pushed across a run in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. Senior Chase Vergason and sophomore Joey Pankake drew back-to-back one-out walks to get things started. Dantzler followed with a single through the right side to drive home Vergason to give Carolina the lead.
Carolina pushed its lead to 4-0 with a three-run outburst in the third. English smashed a ground-rule double to left center to lead off the inning. Three batters later, Pankake drove English home with a single to left field. Dantzler followed with a double to the gap in right center to score Pankake and later scored a run on a single to right field by sophomore Kyle Martin.
Liberty cut the Gamecocks' lead in half in the fourth. After Aanderud delivered a one-out single and Sizemore followed with a double to left, Paxton roped a single through the right side to drive in Aanderud. Sizemore then scored on a sacrifice fly by freshman shortstop Dalton Britt to make it a 4-2 ballgame.
The Gamecocks continued their hot hitting in the home half of the fifth as they tacked on two more runs. Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner ripped a single to right field to lead things off. Following a sacrifice bunt by Martin that moved Greiner to second, junior Graham Saiko singled up the middle to drive Greiner home. Two batters later, English perfectly laid down a bunt single toward first base to score Saiko, giving Carolina a 6-2 cushion.
The Flames made one last charge at a comeback, scoring a run in the eighth on a double by pinch hitter Danny Grauer and a run in the ninth on a RBI groundout by Wimmer. However, with runners on the corners and two outs in the ninth, Webb put an end to the comeback bid by striking out Sizemore to secure the win.
The Gamecocks will play the winner of tonight's Chapel Hill Regional final between North Carolina and Florida Atlantic in the Super Regionals. If North Carolina wins, the Tar Heels will host South Carolina. With a Florida Atlantic win, the Gamecocks would host the Super Regional later this week at Carolina Stadium. The NCAA will announce dates, times, sites and television coverage for the Super Regionals late Monday night.