Stunner in Shelby
In front of a boisterous crowd of over 5,000 fans, Gardner-Webb scored two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to stun the 15th ranked South Carolina Gamecocks 7-6 in Shelby Tuesday night.
GWU took advantage of four USC errors, including a crucial miscue in the ninth, to pull off the upset. The win marks the first win over an SEC opponent for the Bulldogs since 2007.
“We hit the ball the best we have all season against one of the best teams in the nation,” said manager Rusty Stroupe of the Bulldogs who tallied 15 hits. “This is one of the biggest moments ever in program history, but if we don’t win conference games, it won’t mean that much a week from now.”
GWU (21-19-1) mounted a threat in the top of the first as leadoff hitter JJ Nazzaro singled through the left side. Henry Rundio followed single up the middle. Two batters later, Brad Collins boomed a double to center for a 2-0 Bulldog lead.
John Harris then reached on a throwing error and Collins came home to make the tally 3-0.
After Hunter Smith worked a perfect bottom half, Scott Johnson led off with a single but he was left stranded at third.
South Carolina got their bats going in the bottom of the second.
JB Dantzler led off with a double down the right field line and was singled home by Max Schrock after a dropped popup in foul territory. A RBI double by Conner Bright made the score 3-2.
USC then loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Smith got out of trouble by inducing a popup and a fly out to end the frame
Both pitches worked in and out of trouble over the next two innings.
Gamecock starter Colby Holmes left runners stranded at first at third while Smith turned the same trick by getting former Forest City Owl Joey Pankake to fly out to left.
GWU looked to add insurance in the fifth, but Benji Jackson was gunned down at the plate thanks to a strong throw by centerfielder TJ Costen. The Bulldogs did get that run, however, when John Harris reached on an error.
South Carolina roared back to take their first lead of the game on a pair of RBI hits and an error. Costen collected the go-ahead hit with a single up the middle
GWU made a bid to draw even in the sixth as Ryan Hodge led off with a double, but was picked off later in the frame on a failed suicide squeeze to end the threat.
The Bulldogs flashed the leather in the bottom of the seventh as first baseman Collins dove to his left and flipped to reliever Mitch Warner for the out. USC did add a run in the inning, however, as Conner Bright knocked a single to right to make the score 6-4
GWU mounted a major threat in the eighth putting runners on the corners with no outs. Hodge then came through with a single to left that cut the deficit to 6-5.
Later in the inning, Jackson was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs. Scott Coleman then reached on a slow infield roller that tied the game at 6-6
The Bulldogs looked to retake the lead in the final frame. John Harris led off with a single and was lifted for pinch runner Taylor Fisher. Fisher was bunted to second and pinch hitter Tyler Best reached on an error that allowed Fisher to score to give GWU a 7-6 lead.
Warner worked a perfect bottom half to secure the win.
Collins led GWU at the plate going 3-5 with two RBIs while Warner pitched the final 4.1 innings to move to 3-0 on the season.