The Niners have scratched across another run in the top of the eighth making the score 7-6 in favor of South Carolina. Jeff Jeffords, one of Carolina's best relievers, has just entered the game with two outs and a man on first.
In a move that could be questionable for the entire off season, Charlotte Coach Loren Hibbs put starter Luke Stahl back on the mound after a three hour rain delay. Stahl had already thrown 49 pitches when the game initially started. The Gamecocks jumped on him quickly, loaded the bases and squeezed two across before the inning was over. 2-1 Carolina in the top of the fourth inning.
Another squall on the horizon and the teams leave the field here in Columbia, SC. There is one on and no outs for the Gamecocks in the bottom of the third with James Darnell, the teams leading hitter, at bat. The 49ers still lead 1-0.
Carolina's Mike Cisco has worked himself in and out of jams through the first two innings. The Niners were able to scratch one across though on an errant throw from CF Steven Reinhold. After one and a half it's the Charlotte 49ers up 1 - 0.
The Gamecocks have taken the field and we'll be underway in just a minute. Charlotte has to win two. Whoever wins this at the end of the day is headed to Chapel Hill where the Tarheels have already wrapped up their Regional.
Today's Charlotte @ South Carolina game (or games, if Charlotte wins the first) has been delayed. With a massive Southern thunderstorm about 10 miles away, officials have decided to push back the start time to 4:25. For those in other parts of the country, it sounds odd to have "massive thunderstorms" in the same sentence with a 25 minute delay. However, in South Carolina and other states way "down here," it's not unusual to have sun blacked out suddenly by massive clouds, then a massive downpour and then sun again in twenty minutes.
I can't believe this, but NC State DH Mike Roskopf just hit a three run bomb to right center field in the bottom of the eighth. Charlotte had already added an insurance run in the top half of the eighth.
The score is 12-10 Charlotte. There have been six home runs in this game and 14 on the day.
I'm beginning to think I'm being punk'd by Aston Kutcher.
Oh man, Charlotte 3B Aaron Bray pulls a Bill Buckner bringing the tying run to the plate. A passed ball moves the recipient of the Buckner re-enactment, Pat Ferguson, to second. Caleb Mangum is up who's already homered tonight. Heck, I think I might be the only guy here who hasn't homered tonight.
Columbia, SC: To My Friends at the Long Beach Regional
How many dirt bags do I know...
Wow. You've asked a great question. Let's see, assuming my brother-in-law won't read this because he knows nothing about sports, my brother-in-law is more than just a dirt bag. He's a lot of things, dirt bag is just the tip of the iceberg.
John Biggins from 29 years ago in 1st grade - he was a dirt bag.
I'd like to nominate OJ Simpson as a dirt bag (my thoughts are in no way indicative of CBS or affiliated their partners).
A-Rod, dude, screaming "I got it, I got it!" as run past an infielder is pretty dirt bag if you ask me.
OK, back to work, NC State is threatening yet again.
Another three runs thanks to two long bombs by N.C. State's Pond and Mangum has gotten them right back in it. The score is 10-7 in the top of the sixth - wait - check that. As I type, Charlotte just scored again. 11-7 Charlotte and guess what... they are threatening to score some more. First and second occupied by Niners, there are no outs.
So far, we've seen 13 HR today. Four a piece in the previous two games and five in this one.
The Charlotte 49ers tacked on another run in the top of the third inning, making the score 8-0 after two and a half. This has the potential to get ugly as NC State may need to sign someone in the stands to pitch. They've already exhausted their pitching staff in two games. Should they come back and win tonight, aside from the apocalypse being upon us, it would be interesting to see who pitched tomorrow.
The Charlotte 49ers, fresh off a hard fought loss to South Carolina, came out swinging only 45 minutes later. After a scoreless first inning, the Niners hung a seven on the board with a barrage of doubles and singles mixed among two long home runs.
NC State and Charlotte are about to do battle in the second "Loser Leaves Town" match of the day. NC State already sent Wofford home earlier today.
No line ups in yet.
I have to say one thing. I've never covered the Charlotte 49ers but always knew Coach Hibbs to be a quality guy from other reporters I've known in Charlotte. About forty minutes ago, I got to see why - first hand. Due to all of the rain here, yesterday being a complete wash, etc... South Carolina's S.I.D. came up into the press box around the 7th inning of the Charlotte v. South Carolina game for an announcement. Time constraints would only allow the winning team to to attend the post game press conference. The losing team has to play another game still.
Understanding the circumstances, nobody questioned the decision. While we're all sitting there waiting for Gamecock Head Coach Ray Tanner and some of the players to show up, here comes Coach Hibbs huffing and puffing into the conference room. This is what he said:
Trailing 12-5, the Charlotte 49ers are coming up against Will Atwood in the bottom of the ninth inning. Things have really calmed down since the third and fourth innings where a total of thirteen runs crossed the plate.
After South Carolina scored five in the top of the fourth, Charlotte answered with four of their own. Carolina adds one more in the top of the sixth. 12-5 Carolina. End of the sixth on another nice grab by Travis Jones.
There have been some incredable plays in this game and it's only the bottom of the third. Travis Jones' great play was almost outdone by Charlotte's Aaron Bray who snagged a line drive off the bat of (of all people) Travis Jones. Then a beautiful leaping grab off the outfield wall by Charlottes's Brad McElroy ended the top of the third. That catch was ALSO off the bat of Travis Jones.
Columbia, South Carolina has fallen in love with JUCO transfer Travis Jones. Not only has he come here, hit the bejesus out of the ball and led off a monster offense, but now he just made the play of the year. Diving deeeeep into the hole he stretched out completely to snag a bullet, popped up and fired to first for the out. USC 2-0, top 2nd.
Top of the ninth inning here in Columbia with one out. Five more outs until we get to enjoy a double-header. The loser of this game goes home and the winner gets the pleasure of napping for a few hours before playing the loser of the next game. Got that?
Now we are headed to the bottom of the ninth. I think they should make it like the reality shows - you come to the park with your luggage packed. You lose, you leave.
The teams have a combined 492 pitching changes (or so it seems) and Wofford is coming back. Bottom of the 7th is rolling for Wofford. With one run in and one out, the bases are loaded with John Brandt coming up to the plate. 10-6. NC State.
Already two hours late due to weather and playing three games today rather than two, now Wofford and NC State have decided to turn this into an offensive onslaught. NC State scored a run in their part of the 7th on a sac fly from Jeremy Synan that drove in Ryan Pond.
In the top of the sixth inning the Wolfpack have tacked another five on the Terriers. After a walk to Ferguson, Jeremy Synan hit a long two run home run to center field. Caleb Mangum walked after a pitching change leading to three consecutive doubles by Drew Martin, Dallas Poulk and Marcus Jones. Wofford's third pitcher of the inning, Lance Player came on to record the last two outs. After 5 1/2, NC State led 9-1.
With Ramon Corona already on board and no outs, NC State DH Mike Roskopf hit one over the wall in right center. With one out now, it's NC State 3-1 over Wofford. Man on first (base on balls) in the top of the fourth.
A hit, a hit batter and a wild pitch scored a run for the Wolfpack before the top of the third ended. Going to the bottom half, the sky is still gray, but for some reason looks a tad more friendly at the moment.
Brandon Waring struck out with a man in third base to end a scoreless first inning. NC State Marcus Jones re-lived the kiddy days on the ol' Slip n' Slide while chasing down a shot to right center. It was a legit hit, but as it got over his head, he tried to stop himself and turn toward the warning track... The puddle of water beneath his feet wouldn't allow it. Needless to say he's soaking right now. 0-0 going to the second.
Though Mother Nature has had her way with us, we're moving on. Rained out yesterday, there have been some serious re-scheduling, and then this morning, some re-re-scheduling. Yesterday's Losers Bracket game (NC State v. Wofford) was pushed to today at 11am. That time has been pushed back to 1pm. The South Carolina/Charlotte game is after that, with that loser facing the loser of the first game to complete our triple header.
Gamecock Head Coach Ray Tanner - I had tremendous anticipation today. It was one of the longest days of my coaching career just because Wofford's been on such a role lately, I was analyzing, looking at numbers, and breaking things down all day. I was spinning my wheels for the most part. There were a couple factors that I thought were big tonight. One was where Justin answered in the first inning after they got a run on the board.
Gamecock Head Coach Ray Tanner - There were too many walks in the game, but Harris (Honeycutt) was pretty sharp at times. He punched out some guys in big situations. He's close to being where he was early in the season. He's one or two pitches an inning away from being where he was.
Gamecock starter Harris Honeycutt gave up one run in the first inning tonight and has been more than stingy the rest of the night. Of his seven strikeouts, the last 5 have been of the "backward K" variety. He's thrown 105 pitches. Top 7, Cocks still lead 6-1.
Though the Gamecocks haven't scored in a while, they are all over starter Ben Austin. A very nice play by second baseman Eric Sturkie ends the fifth inning. 6-1 Gamecocks. Austin has thrown an unofficial 100 pitches after five complete.
South Carolina had runners on first and second with two outs. Trent Kline singled but James Darnell was called out at the plate. The umpire said Darnell missed the plate, Gamecock Head Coach Ray Tanner stormed out of the dugout and you can imagine who won. The umpire. Inning ends at the plate. After four complete it's USC leading 6-1.
James Darnell and Justin Smoak walked back to back to start the inning, Disher struck out, Kline walked. Starter Ben Austin has walked the bases loaded and has already thrown 59 pitches after 2.2 IP. Andrew Crisp singles in a run, bases still loaded.
This has the potential to get ugly - fast.
A single by Jon Willard scores two more. First and second, two outs.
The lineups for tonight's #1 vs #4 match-up, South Carolina vs. Wofford, are in. James Darnell, Carolina's leading hitter was questionable coming in, but he is playing tonight at 3B and batting second as usual.
South Carolina - 2B Travis Jones, 3B James Darnell, 1B Justin Smoak, DH Phil Disher, C Trent Kline, RF Andrew Crisp, LF Jon Willard, CF Steven Reinhold, SS Reese Havens.
Wofford - SS Mike Gilmartin, CF Bradford Eaves, DH Shane Kirkley, 3B Brandon Waring, LF John Brandt, 1B Adam Wood, RF Sterling Dye, C Keith Munns, 2B Eric Sturkie
NC State's Joey Cutler made one of the most amazing catches I've seen in my 30 years of watching baseball. Cutler is the pitcher. A line drive came back at him as fast as I've ever seen RIGHT AT HIS FACE. He threw up a glove as if to block an 18-wheeler from running him over. Caught the ball and then doubled up the man on second base.
It's the top of the sixth inning here in Columbia, SC. Charlotte jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning and then the game turned into a pitcher's dual. Adam Mills of Charlotte is not disappointing. He's given up only three hits and no runs in five innings.
If there truly were a "Road to Omaha" like the slogan says, where would your favorite team be? For instance, Tennessee fans would be dialing 911 about now reporting grand theft auto. If you are a Vanderbilt fan, you'd be in a stretch limo with bikini clad women partying through the sunroof.
Four teams come to Columbia this weekend with the same ultimate goal in mind - Omaha. They'll all tell you that tomorrow is the only day that matters, but realistically, there is one goal from February to June and it starts here.