COLUMBIA, S.C. – With the tying run 90 feet away, Maryland turned a 4-6-3 game-ending double play to seal a dramatic 4-3 victory over top-seeded South Carolina Saturday night at Carolina Stadium snapping the Gamecocks 28-game postseason home winning streak and sending the Terps into the Columbia Regional final.
With one out in the top of the ninth and South Carolina runners at first and third, closer Kevin Mooney induced a ground ball from Joey Pankake to Brandon Lowe. Lowe quickly gathered the ball fired it to Blake Schmit who tagged second and threw a strike to LaMonte Wade to clinch the victory sending Terrapin players streaming from the dugout in celebration.
The victory secures a spot in the region final. Maryland (38-21) will meet the winner of South Carolina and Campbell Sunday night at 7 p.m. with a spot in the Super Regionals at stake. The Gamecocks and Camels square off at 1 p.m. Sunday.
"I am really happy the way our guys responded in that atmosphere under some duress," said head coach John Szefc. "We did a great job of hanging in there. I think the turning point in that game was when they had second and third and no outs [in the sixth inning] and Mike [Shawaryn] was able to minimize that to two runs. That was a spot that really kept us in there.
"Obviously, we are really happy to be sitting where we are sitting at this point, but it is just the second win. We’re not here just to get two wins. We are here to finish this thing off and that is our mindset going into tomorrow."
A fantastic pitching performance from starter Mike Shawaryn set the stage for relievers Bobby Ruse and Mooney to preserve the win. In the last four innings Saturday, Maryland’s pitchers managed to strand six Carolina base runners including the potential tying run at third in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Terrapin offense staked Shawaryn to a four-run lead after two innings and the freshman righty cruised through five holding the Gamecocks (43-17) to three hits and one run.
In the sixth, South Carolina cut the Maryland lead to one, but it could have been worse if not for the efforts of Shawaryn. Following a RBI double by Kyle Martin, the Gamecocks had runners on second and third with nobody out. Shawaryn then struck out two of the next three batters to keep the lead at one.
"Big part of what happened today was calming down, slowing the game down and going pitch-by-pitch,” said Shawaryn. “Our pitching coach [Jim] Belanger always tells us that. Take a deep breath, reset and get back on the mound. The target doesn't change its still 60-feet, six inches."
In the seventh, Ruse entered with runners on first and second and one out and stranded both. In the eighth, Mooney struck out Gene Cone with tying run at third to get the game to ninth.
The Terps got off to a fast start Saturday night taking a 1-0 lead in their first at-bat. After Shawaryn retired the Gamecocks in order to start the game, Charlie White put Maryland in position to grab the early advantage. The junior centerfielder shot the gap in left center to start the inning and cruised into second with his 13th double of the year.
Lowe cashed in with White in scoring position. Lowe slapped the first pitch of the at-bat through the left side of the infield for his 39th RBI of the season to put the Terps up 1-0.
A three-run second pushed Maryland’s advantage to four. The Terps recorded three two-out hits including a run-scoring double from Wade. Kevin Martir started the two-out rally with a single to left and moved to second after the ball skipped past Cone.
White put runners at the corners with a line drive single that deflected off of Martin’s glove at first. Facing a 2-2 count with the crowd in full throat, Wade doubled to right scoring Martir and moving White to third. Lowe followed with a slow roller towards third and when Pankake’s throw skipped past Martin the Terps tacked on two more runs.
Carolina chipped into the Terps’ lead in the fourth with two, two-out singles of its own. Martin singled to right and a Grayson Greiner walk put runners at first and second. DC Arendas got the Gamecocks on the board with a single to left to score Martin. Shawaryn minimized the damage and got a fielder’s choice ground out on the next at-bat.
The Gamecocks trimmed their deficit to one in the sixth scoring two runs on two hits. A single by Max Schrock and a walk to start the inning put two runners on. Martin brought a run home with a double off the wall in right missing a three-run home run by mere inches. Shawaryn struck out two of the next three batters, but Arendas got South Carolina’s third run home on a sacrifice fly to left.
Holding a one run lead, the Maryland bullpen kept the Gamecocks at bay with Ruse stranding runners at first and second in the seventh and Mooney leaving the tying run at third in the eighth paving the way for a dramatic ninth inning.
"Coming in especially in that situation, I've been there before with two guys on, it just comes down to slowing the game down and going pitch-by-pitch,” said Mooney. “It comes down to hitting spots and it turns out I hit a pretty good spot getting a two-hopper to Lowe."