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Slow Start Hampers Baseball in 11-10 Loss to USC Upstate

Courtesy: CofCSports.com
          Release: 04/13/2010
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Sophomore 3B Matt Leeds
Courtesy: CofCSports.com

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - USC Upstate jumped to an early 5-1 lead, then rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning as Andre Harris singled home the winning run with a two-out, bases-loaded liner to right, shocking College of Charleston 11-10 in non-conference action Tuesday evening at Harley Park. The Cougars fall to 24-11 on the season, while Upstate improves to 10-27.

With a two-run lead and junior closer Heath Hembree (Cowpens, S.C./Spartanburg Methodist College) on the mound, the Spartans mounted a rally to score the victory. Tyler Miller led off with a walk and advanced to second on a groundout by Brody Greer. A wild pitch by Hembree moved Miller to third and Blake Green walked to put runners at the corners. Miller cut the Spartans' deficit to one, scoring on a second wild pitch by Hembree and a single and a walk loaded the bases. Hembree struck out the next batter, but walked in the tying run on five pitches to Tyler Cook. Charleston went to the bullpen, bringing in junior RHP Josh Salay (Rock Hill, S.C./Spartanburg Methodist College) to face Harris, who took a 1-1 pitch off the wall in right for the winning run.

Upstate moved out to an early 3-0 lead, jumping on Charleston freshman starter Jake Zokan (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) for four hits in the opening inning. With one out, Joe Barnes singled and Jimmy Tanner reached on a fielding error by junior 2B Baker Knox (San Mateo, Fla./ Daytona Beach CC), moving Barnes to second. Trey Richardson followed up with a RBI single through the left side, scoring Barnes for a 1-0 advantage. Cook roped a RBI double to left center and Harris put another RBI single through the left side to give the host Spartans a three-run cushion.

The Cougars tallied a single run in the second, as sophomore 3B Matt Leeds (Boca Raton, Fla./American Heritage) led off with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch, before Knox lined a RBI single to center. Upstate picked up two more runs in the bottom of the third, scoring on a RBI single by Harris and a sacrifice fly by Miller.

Charleston knotted the score at 5-5 in the top of the fourth, plating four runs on three hits and an error. Junior C Rob Kral (Randolph, N.J./Randolph) led off the frame with a walk and Leeds followed with a RBI triple to right, cutting the Spartan lead to 5-2. Sophomore LF Jose Rodriguez (Hialeah, Fla./Broward College) blasted a two-run home run to left, his 10th of the season, and Knox would later come home on a throwing error by the Upstate second baseman.

A RBI single up the middle by Richardson briefly gave the Spartans a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the fourth, but the Cougars rallied to tie the game in the sixth. Rodriguez single to center and advanced to second on a fielding error by Harris. Knox singled up the middle to score Rodriguez and tie things up at six runs apiece. Upstate took a two-run lead in the bottom of the frame on a RBI double by Barnes and a second run scored on a muffed throw by senior 1B Greg Blake (Westerly, R.I./Lake City CC).

The Cougars would respond in the seventh with a three-run home run by Leeds to take a 9-8 lead. With Bobby Jackson on the mound for Upstate, junior CF Cole Rakar (Mt. Pleasant, S.C./Wando) led off with a walk and senior SS Joey Bergman (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) hit into a fielder's choice with Rakar taken out at second. Kral walked and Leeds crushed a 1-1 pitch to straight away center. Charleston would add another run in the top of the ninth on a RBI single by Leeds, before Upstate's comeback in the bottom of the frame.

Leeds led the Cougars with a three-hit, five-RBI performance, while Knox chipped in three hits as well. Zokan only lasted one inning, allowing three runs on four hits, while seven Charleston relievers completed the game. It was the second straight start that Zokan lasted less than three innings. Tyler Oliver picked up the win for Upstate, tossing the final two innings, giving up one run on two hits with three strikeouts. Harris had four hits and three RBI to lead the Spartans.

The Cougars return to Southern Conference action this weekend as they host Wofford for a three-game series at Patriots Point. Game time for Friday's contest is set for 7:00 p.m.

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