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Liberty Edged by No. 5 South Carolina, 4-3, as Rally Falls Short
The No. 5-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks held off a late charge by Liberty to edge the Flames, 4-3, at Carolina Stadium to open the 2013 baseball season, Friday.
Liberty outhit South Carolina, 8-5. Center fielder Ryan Cordell, catcher Trey Wimmer and shortstop Dalton Britt, playing in his first collegiate game, had two hits each for the Flames.
Trailing 4-0, Liberty cut the Gamecocks' advantage to one run with three runs in the eighth inning. Wimmer started the inning with the Flames' first leadoff hit of the contest, a single, and moved to third on back-to-back, one-out walks to left fielder Nick Lacik and right fielder Nick Paxton. Cordell followed by lining a double off the left field to drive in Wimmer and Lacik. The next batter, second baseman Bryan Aanderud, then plated Paxton with a RBI ground out, slicing the South Carolina lead to 4-3.
However in the ninth, Gamecock reliever Tyler Webb retired the Flames in order to close out the hosts' victory and earn a save.
Liberty drops to 0-1 on the season, while South Carolina moves to 1-0. The Gamecocks entered the season ranked as high as fifth in national polls. The game was played before 8,242 fans, the 27th sellout in Carolina Stadium history.
Before the contest, former South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner's jersey was retired. Tanner led the Gamecocks to three consecutive NCAA College World Series title series, winning national championships in 2010 and 2011, while being the 2012 runner-up. Liberty head coach Jim Toman was on Tanner's staff at South Carolina for 11 years, before becoming the Flames' head coach in 2008.
The visiting Flames moved runners into scoring position in each of the first four innings, but came away empty on each occasion. In the top of the first, Cordell reached on a single and advanced to third base with two out, but was stranded by South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery. The Flames also left a runner at second base in the second and fourth frames, while leaving the bases loaded in the third.
The Gamecocks jumped onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the second inning. L.B. Danzler plated the contest's first run with a solo home run over the right field wall for a 1-0 host advantage.
South Carolina loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning. However, Liberty starter Carson Herndon pitched out of the jam by getting designated hitter Erik Payne to ground into a fielder's choice.
The Gamecocks extended its lead with a run in the sixth inning. Right fielder T.J. Costen walked to open the frame and moved to third base on a throwing error by Flames reliever Jared Lyons on a ground ball back to the mound by third baseman Chase Vergason. Two batters later, Danzler scored Costen with a sacrifice fly to deep center field for a 2-0 lead.
Liberty loaded the bases against South Carolina reliever Patrick Sullivan with two outs in the top of the seventh. But once again, the Gamecocks were able to get out of the inning, as the right-hander retired pinch hitter Sammy Taormina.
South Carolina added two runs in the seventh. The Gamecocks scored runs on a bases-loaded wild pitch and a RBI fielder's choice by second baseman Max Schrock to up their lead to 4-0.
Despite five solid innings, Herndon takes the loss to fall to 0-1. The sophomore allowed one run on three hits, striking out three batters and walking three.
Montgomery picks up the opening-day win, moving to 1-0. The South Carolina left-hander did not allow a run in six innings of work, allowing five hits. He stuck out five batters and walked two.
Liberty left 14 men on base, while South Carolina stranded seven.
The Flames and Gamecocks will meet again tomorrow at Carolina Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.