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South Carolina breaks out bats in 6th inning to tie SEC baseball series vs. Tennessee

After suffering its first shutout of the season a day earlier, the No. 13 South Carolina baseball team found the offensive spark it needed late Saturday afternoon.

In the first game of a doubleheader, Founders Park erupted as the Gamecocks strung together five runs in the sixth inning against No. 18 Tennessee to win the seven-inning contest 6-1. The win forces a rubber game, which will be played at approximately 5 p.m. (SEC Network).

More importantly for USC, the win keeps the Gamecocks (38-16, 16-12 SEC) firmly in the discussion for a hosting nod in the NCAA Tournament. With three straight SEC series losses, USC’s grip on a hosting bid has loosened in recent weeks.

Before the late-inning eruption, the first game of Saturday’s twin bill was shaping up as a pitcher’s duel. Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander — projected to go in the first round of the MLB Draft — touched up to 98 mph with his fastball and struck out 13 Gamecocks in 5.1 innings. He allowed just two hits in the game, the first a solo home run by USC’s Braylen Wimmer in the first inning.

USC right-hander Jack Mahoney matched Dollander pitch for pitch, delivering his second-straight winning effort for the Gamecocks. Mahoney struck out nine Volunteers in six innings, giving up just one run on three hits. He was helped by a strong throw from left fielder Dylan Brewer in the fourth, who threw out the would-be tying run at home plate to end the inning.

It took a move to the bullpen by Tennessee for the Gamecocks to find their groove at the plate. After Wimmer singled with one out in the bottom of the sixth, the Vols replaced Dollander with reliever Chase Burns, and the move backfired. Burns allowed five consecutive hits to USC hitters to fuel a game-changing rally.

Freshman Ethan Petry drove in the go-ahead run with a single to left field, then Gavin Casas followed with an RBI single, followed by a two-run double from Talmadge LeCroy and RBI single from Michael Braswell. The explosion led to a much-needed win for the reeling Gamecocks, who still likely need a series win over the Vols to keep their hosting hopes alive.