Big day sends Gamecocks into NCAA Regional final

uscbase-slapSouth Carolina played like a No. 1 seed on Sunday, winning two games by a combined score of 33-3 to advance to a winner-take-all final against UNC Wilmington.

Following a record-setting 23-2 revenge victory over Rhode Island, which handed South Carolina its opening loss Friday, the Gamecocks got a heroic effort from first-time starter Tyler Johnson. He guided South Carolina past UNCW, 10-1, in Game 6 of the 2016 NCAA Columbia Regional. The Gamecock victory sets up a winner-take-all seventh game between the two squads, set for Monday at 6 p.m. ET.

Johnson (3-2) was making his first start of the 2016 season on Sunday night and was pitching on just over 24 hours of rest after throwing 1.1 innings in a winning effort on Saturday afternoon against Duke. But the sophomore right-hander responded like a champion, pitching a complete game on Sunday and allowing just one run. He struck out 11, also a personal best.

The South Carolina (45-16) offense supported Johnson with another huge effort, tallying 10 runs on 13 hits. The Gamecocks plated five runs in the 2nd inning and never looked back as Johnson continuously stonewalled the Seahawks inning after inning.

Junior Gene Cone paced the offense on Sunday night, going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI. Cone, senior DC Arendas and freshman TJ Hopkins each scored twice, while Arendas, sophomore Hunter Taylor and freshman TJ Hopkins added two hits apiece.

Sophomore right-hander Cory Gantz (4-1) suffered the loss for UNCW (41-18). He made it through just 1.1 innings before surrendering five runs.

UNCW got on the board in the top of the 1st. Mims, who came into the game after going 5-for-10 at the plate in the Regional, stayed hot with a solo home run.

South Carolina surged ahead after loading the bases with no outs in the 2nd inning. Gene Cone chased all three runners home with a bases-clearing double, but the scoring wasn’t over. Three batters later Dom Thompson-Williams plated a pair with a single to center, and the Gamecocks led 5-1.

Neither team scored again until the 6th inning, when the Gamecocks broke the game open. South Carolina had the bases loaded with two outs when Madison Stokes coaxed a walk out of the UNCW pitcher. Then Saturday’s hero, Hunter Taylor, came up with another huge swing, singling home a pair to make the score 8-1.

Hopkins picked up an insurance run for the Gamecocks in the 7th inning. Batting with two outs, the freshman singled up the middle, bringing Arendas home and stretching the margin to 9-1. South Carolina’s final run came in the 8th. A groundout from LT Tolbert was enough to score Stokes and make it 10-1 Gamecocks.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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