Row's big hit gives Gamecocks walk-off win over Alabama

Row's big hit gives Gamecocks walk-off win over Alabama

**Story by Willie T. Smith III/Photo by Allen Sharpe**

Photo gallery by Jenny Dilworth

When you don’t play regularly, making the most of every opportunity is key.

That moment came for South Carolina’s Justin Row in the 10th inning of a tie game against Southeastern Conference foe Alabama and he seized the moment.

Photo gallery by Allen Sharpe

The junior infielder lined a single to left field with the bases loaded, giving the Gamecocks a 6-5 walk-off victory.

Alabama takes Game 1

It also tied the three-game series at one each.

“It was awesome said Row. “(Alabama left fielder Chandler Taylor was a lot closer than I thought he was going to get to that. When he dove, I was just making sure he missed it. Then I turned around and saw the joy on everybody’s faces.

“It was awesome. It was great.”

The win improved Carolina’s record to 16-6 overall and 4-1 in the SEC.

The win prevented a two-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide.

“It’s typical of this league,” said SC coach Chad Holbrook. “Every team is so evenly matched. It comes down to a play here or a play there. Our kids played hard. We didn’t necessarily play well all the time. I think we’re making our pitchers be a little bit perfect right now.”

For much of the game, it appeared the Gamecocks were set to pick up an easy win. They scored three runs in the fourth added another in the sixth to take a 4-0 lead.

With Wil Crowe on the mound that appeared more than enough.

But after shutting the Crimson Tide out through six, he ran into trouble in the seventh.

After back-to-back hits led to Alabama’s first run, Crowe was pulled in favor of closer Josh Reagan (3-0). The Crimson Tide scored two in the frame.

“Josh is one of the best closers, the best finishers in the game,” said Crowe. “It made sense to me. I knew I was coming out.”

Alabama scored another run in the eighth and two more in the ninth to take a 5-4 lead.

Danny Blair scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning to send the game to the 10th.

“We found a way to win a huge game and we’ll live to fight another day,” said Holbrook. “They probably hit the ball with more authority than we did throughout the game. But baseball is a funny game. We willed our way to this one. Maybe we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

“You look back on those at the end of the year and you cherish them because this league is so difficult."

       The series ends Sunday when the teams meet at noon. Right hander Nick Eicholtz (1-0, 6.48) will take the mound for the Crimson Tide, while right hander Clarke Schmidt (3-0, 1.04) will start for SC.

It marks Schmidt’s first outing since March 10th against Michigan State due to an oblique strain.

“He’s going to go,” Holbrook said of Schmidt. “We’re going to watch him very closely. I think he’s healthy. I think he’s anxious to pitch and we’re anxious to put him out there.”

There will be no set pitch count for Schmidt, as Holbrook and pitching coach Jerry Meyers will observe him closely.

“We’re not going in there thinking he is going to throw this amount of pitches,” said Holbrook. “If he’s at 75 pitches and he feels great, we’re going to keep him in there. If he tells me at 35 or 40 he’s a little tight, we’ll get him out.”

The game will start at noon. It was moved from 1:30 p.m. to give fans a chance to attend and still have time to watch the South Carolina men’s basketball team take on Florida in the NCAA Elite Eight at 2:20 p.m.