Gamecocks beat Billikens, face Flames for trip to final

A four-run eighth inning propelled South Carolina (40-18) past Saint Louis (41-20) 7-3 in the second game of 2013 NCAA Columbia Regional at Carolina Stadium on Friday evening.

Senior Nolan Belcher faced the minimum until the seventh when Michael Bozarth led off the frame with a single. Belcher finished his day after 6.1 innings pitched, allowing four hits and one earned run while fanning six without issuing a walk. Senior Adam Westmoreland got the Gamecocks out of the seventh before senior Tyler Webb (3-2) finished the contest, not getting charged with a run over the last two innings to pick up the win. Webb struck out five of the seven batters he faced.

Five Gamecocks registered two hits in the matchup with junior left fielder Graham Saiko adding his second homer of the year, a double, two RBI and two runs scored. Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner also scored two runs to pair with his 2-for-4 performance at the plate. Senior designated hitter LB Dantzler, sophomore first baseman Kyle Martin and sophomore right fielder Connor Bright recorded an RBI each as well, with the sophomores also getting two hits along with freshman second baseman Max Schrock.

Belcher got off to a solid start striking out two in the first, and the Gamecocks took an early lead with one in the bottom half of the frame. Dantzler picked up his RBI on a grounder, bringing Schrock around for the 1-0 lead.

Saiko blasted a 3-2 pitch in the second for his homer that put the Gamecocks up 2-0. Trying to add to the lead, Bright was caught at the plate as he tried to score from second on Schrock’s two-out single. A third Gamecock run came in the fourth inning as Bright’s single drove Greiner home after he reached with a leadoff single.

The Billikens scored their first run in the top of the seventh when sophomore Mike Vigliarolo delivered an RBI single to bring home Bozarth, closing the gap to 3-1. With Westmoreland on in relief for Belcher and runners on first and second, freshman Braxton Martinez hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.

Aided by a wild pitch from Webb in the top of the eighth, Saint Louis was able to work two runners into scoring position. It looked as if the Gamecocks would get out of the inning when Bozarth hit a ball to third base, but an errant throw allowed both base runners to score, tying the game at 3-3.

The Gamecocks took control again in the bottom half of the eighth. Sophomore shortstop Joey Pankake reached on an error to start the inning and promptly stole second. Greiner’s single put runners on the corners for Martin, who delivered a hit through the right side to give South Carolina a 4-3 lead. A wild pitch plated Greiner, and Martin added another on Saiko’s double to make the score 6-3. The second error of the inning scored Saiko from third to increase the Gamecock cushion to 7-3.

Webb struck out senior Alex Kelly, induced a fly out from Vigliarolo and collected his fifth strike out from Martinez to end the game.

Clay Smith (8-3) gets the loss for Saint Louis, allowing eight hits and four runs over seven-plus innings of work. The righthander struck out three and walked just one. Offensively, Bozarth led the way for the Billikins as the only play with two hits, going 2-for-4 and scoring a run. Centerfielder Danny Brennan and second baseman Mike Levine also registered runs for Saint Louis.

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