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The Daily Tar Heel

Gamecocks Finish Strong in the Field, Defeat UNC

But it didn't matter.

South Carolina, banished to the visitor's side in the title game of the NCAA regional baseball tournament at Sarge Frye Field in Columbia, S.C., slid by North Carolina 3-1 to advance to the third round.

Between Gamecocks pitcher Blake Taylor's 11 strikeouts and Yaron Peters' two home runs, North Carolina couldn't find a foothold.

The closest UNC would come was when shortstop Chad Prosser hit a homer in the fifth inning, cutting USC's lead to 2-1.

Taylor regained control, rallying to get the next three batters out.

UNC coach Mike Fox said he thought Taylor would become fatigued as the game continued. Typically the Gamecocks' closer, Taylor made his first starting appearance of his career Sunday.

"That was our strategy, to make him throw a lot of pitches," he said. "We just kept saying, 'He'll run out of gas, he'll run out of gas' and he never ran out of gas."

USC coach Ray Tanner said Taylor, who threw 156 pitches in his complete game effort, asked to start after the Gamecocks lost 8-4 against the Tar Heels in what could have been South Carolina's final game of the regional. The NCAA regional is a double elimination tourney.

"I had no idea we could get that kind of performance," Tanner said. "We know how good Blake Taylor is, but that's just a performance on heart and character. He set the tempo for us."

Things were a little different for the North Carolina squad. While battling a hostile Gamecock crowd and a dominant Gamecock team, UNC had trouble keeping its pitchers fresh. In the title game, Fox made five pitcher changes and brought back Scott Autrey, who pitched a complete game against James Madison on Friday night.

"I didn't really want to do that," Fox said. "It's not good for him (to pitch) nine innings and then come back two days later, but he said he could pitch."

Behind the plate, UNC struggled to keep its catchers in rotation. Freshman Chris Iannetta suffered a deep thigh bruise Saturday and was unable to return to the field. During the second game Saturday, Ron Braun was taken to the hospital after drinking ammonia he mistook for water.

Braun returned for the title game Sunday as a designated hitter but was taken out after walking in the eighth inning.

Also in the eighth, Fox argued a called strikeout against Greg Mangum. Fox was ejected from the game.

USC (51-15) will host this weekend's super regional and will face the defending national champion Miami. UNC goes home with a 43-21 record, having made its fourth tournament appearance in five years.

Fox said he was disappointed with the outcome but proud of his team's effort. He said, "We took them to the limit, and I'm sure if they get in this situation again, they'll respond."

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