Don’t count out cardiac Gamecocks

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By Robert Howey

With all the gut-wrenching action of South Carolina’s emotional 3-2 win over No. 1 national seed Virginia, did you really doubt the Gamecocks’ chances Friday night?

A USC foe’s No. 1 billing seems to inspire the Gamecocks to turn it up a notch, or just whatever it takes.

Remember Alabama in football last fall when the Gamecocks turned back the top-rated Tide? How about the upset of top-rated Kentucky on the hardwood in 2010? Then, last year at the College World Series, the Gamecocks, in their national title run, knocked off No. 1 national seed Arizona State.

This season, the Gamecocks’ baseball team now has six wins over a top-rated team. That’s stout.

Virginia became USC’s latest diamond victim as the gritty Gamecocks rallied for the stunning win over the talented Cavaliers, who fell twice to South Carolina in the CWS.

It would be nice to think that just facing No. 1 is a sure-fire formula for the Gamecocks’ success, but it’s really about rising to the occasion on a national stage in all phases of the game – clutch pitching, timely hitting and tough defense.

“This game certainly could have gone either way, and we just kept hanging in there and we were fortunate to get a couple of breaks at the end,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.

The Gamecocks opened the bottom of the 13th with Brady Thomas’ solid single to center field.

Adam Matthews, in a key move by Tanner, was inserted to run for Thomas and advanced when Virginia reliever Cody Winiarski threw wildly trying to get Matthews at second base on a Peter Mooney bunt.

Mooney atoned nicely after his eighth-inning error at shortstop allowed Virginia to tie the game at 2-all.

USC’s Robert Beary followed with another bunt and Winiarski tried to nail Matthews at third, but the low throw skipped away as Matthews slid in at third. He bolted to his feet and dashed home with the decisive run.

“I didn’t know where the ball was,” Matthews said. “Coach Holbrook and everyone was telling me to go, go, go, so it worked out well.”

The thrilling finish came after USC ace reliever Matt Price, who dueled Cavs’ star closer Branden Kline, worked out of bases-loaded situations in the 10th, 12th and 13th innings.

The stellar Kline threw 107 pitches in five innings of three-hit relief. Price (7-3) gave up seven hits, walking five and striking out five in a 5.2 innings, his longest outing this season.

Prior to the Gamecocks’ decisive rally in the 13th, USC received a huge boost after Virginia loaded the bases with no outs. Price struck out Chris Taylor and then John Barr lined out to Scott Wingo at second and he flipped the ball to Mooney at second to double up the Virginia runner.

The Gamecocks turned an amazing four double plays, three in the final six frames against the Cavs.

 The win moves 53-14 USC into a clash with SEC East Division rival Florida, 53-17, on