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Gamecocks win Greenville Regional

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South Carolina's Danny Blair is waved around third base.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, June 4, 2018

South Carolina put the finishing touches on a 3-0 run at the NCAA baseball Greenville Regional on Monday afternoon, putting away pesky No. 4 seed UNC Wilmington with an 8-4 win at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

UNCW had won rain-delayed elimination games on consecutive days, ousting Ohio State on Saturday and host East Carolina on Sunday night.

The Gamecocks from the powerful Southeastern Conference scored two runs in the top of the third inning on Hunter Taylor’s two-run double and led the Seahawks the rest of the way. UNCW stalwart Kep Brown hit a two-run home run to make it 4-3 Gamecocks in the bottom of the sixth, but SC responded with a few more big swings and relief pitcher Eddy Demurias provided three clutch innings with five strikeouts and one run allowed.

South Carolina had a 20-17 record on April 17, but it surged through the grind of the SEC and proved supreme in Greenville.

“When you look up on TV and you see Vanderbilt going in and winning a regional (at Clemson) and us going and winning a regional, I think it’s clear that statistically — and this isn’t an opinion — but the raw data says the SEC has distanced itself as the top conference in the country,” South Carolina first-year coach Mark Kingston said. “It does (help) and it’s not just a confidence thing, but you had to battle Florida’s pitching staff and Vanderbilt’s pitching staff and Arkansas’ pitching. You had to battle the best in the country just to get here.”

Demurias also pitched three innings Friday, allowing one run in an 8-3 comeback win against Ohio State. South Carolina trailed that game 2-0 in the seventh inning.

The Seahawks were the only No. 4 seed to make a regional final. They lost 16-7 to ECU on Friday night and showed off some resiliency from there with a 4-3 win over Ohio State and beating the Pirates 9-7 late Sunday after a 5 hour and 9 minute delay.

“After that game against East Carolina, we knew our backs were against the wall,” said senior first baseman Mason Berne, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in the championship. “You always want to play the game straight through, but it’s baseball and it happens. … Our mindset doesn’t change during a delay or anything and we all knew there was a job ahead of us and then today we came out and knew what we had to do, but we just didn’t get the job done.”

ECU’s representatives on the all-regional team were third baseman Connor Litton and outfielder Bryant Packard. Most valuable player honors went to South Carolina’s Danny Blair, who hit a home run to beat the Buckeyes and on Monday scored two runs.

UNCW ace Alex Royalty started against ECU and he started again Monday, lasting 2 2/3 innings and yielding two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in 55 pitches. South Carolina starter Carmen Mlodzinski, a freshman who came in with a 2-5 record and five starts, gave up three runs in five frames to get to Demurias’ superb outing.

This was the Gamecocks’ 18th regional championship and they will play at fellow SEC squad Arkansas in a super regional. They also were in Greenville in 2009, the only other time ECU hosted at Clark-LeClair Stadium, and they finished second to the Pirates.

“I’m happy for these kids that they get to enjoy what college baseball is at its finest in going to super regionals with a chance to get to Omaha,” Kingston said.

South Carolina did not dogpile when it won.

“We knew what we can do and early in the season it did not show that,” said designated hitter Madison Stokes, who had a game-high three RBIs. “We’ve battled and been through the lowest of lows and have proven to the country what we can do.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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