Originally created 04/27/01

Win gives Gamecocks momentum



CLEMSON, S.C. - South Carolina's baseball team skipped the showers after Wednesday's late-night 2-1 triumph at Clemson.

The Gamecocks didn't make it back to Columbia until 2:30 Thursday morning, and coach Ray Tanner said he didn't get to bed until at least an hour later.

But the win was well worth the filth and fatigue for South Carolina, which cemented its recent dominance of the Tigers in snaring its fifth win in six tries over its rival and claiming back-to-back season series for the first time since 1981 and 1982.

"It's the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, so it didn't matter if it was the only game you played or three out of four," said Tanner, in his fifth season at South Carolina. "It's tremendous pride winning a game against your rival."

The victory also might have provided the Gamecocks with a crucial dose of momentum as they try to secure a spot in the SEC Tournament. South Carolina (32-13) begins a three-game homestand today against Auburn (7 p.m.), and Kentucky visits Sarge Frye Field in Columbia next weekend. On May 11-13, the Gamecocks will close out the season at Florida.

South Carolina is a game below .500 in the SEC and is tied with two teams for the seventh seed in the SEC Tournament.

"I've never felt that our team was really struggling," said Tanner, whose team has lost its past four SEC series. "We just haven't done as well in the league as we would have like to have done."

Wednesday's win, which came in hostile confines and followed a two-hour rain and lightning delay, showed the Gamecocks can win under duress.

South Carolina was up 2-1 after five innings when play was stopped. After two hours, one minute and lots of deliberation from Tanner, the umpires and Clemson coach Jack Leggett, play resumed at 10:37 p.m.

Tanner argued that the game should have been called because lightning still was in the area, and Leggett argued that the elements weren't a threat. Their contentions made sense; had the game been called, South Carolina would have gone home with the victory.

No argument was necessary for the 24th-ranked Gamecocks. Four South Carolina pitchers held the Tigers to five hits, and Lee Gronkiewicz worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings in recording his 11th save.

"That was an incredible performance by a bunch of different people," Tanner said.

Clemson coach Jack Leggett was more willing to criticize his team's bats than to praise the Gamecocks' arms. His team was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

"We were horrible offensively," said Leggett, whose team begins a three-game homestand with North Carolina tonight at 7:15. "It's probably the worst performance I've seen from us in a long, long time."

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larrywill7@yahoo.com.