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April 13, 2010
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - There was a series of unlikely heroes on Tuesday night as the USC Upstate baseball team pulled off one of its biggest upsets in the Division I era. There was sophomore Tyler Cook (Bloomington, Ill./University), playing in his first game in nearly two weeks thanks to hand injury, driving in the tying run with a bases loaded walk. There was junior Joe Barnes (Lake Orion, Mich./Grand Rapids C.C.), who two weeks ago was hitting .239, that crossed the plate with the winning run. And finally, there was junior Andre Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids C.C.), who was hitting .202 entering the game, that won the game by driving a 1-1 fastball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to the base of the right field wall for his career-high fourth hit. All of it added up to an 11-10 walkoff win for the Spartans over the College of Charleston, ranked 28th in the nation in WarrenNolan.com's RPI.
The Spartans (10-27 overall) started their ninth inning rally off former Spartanburg Methodist College pitcher Heath Hembree, as freshman Tyler Miller (Fort Mill, S.C./Fort Mill) drew a leadoff walk. With Hembree's fastballs nearing 95 miles an hour, Miller took second on a groundout. However, Hembree's control faded, and a wild pitch helped Miller take third and then score as junior Blake Green (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern) drew a walk, bringing up Barnes.
On a 1-2 pitch, Barnes slapped a Texas Leaguer into right field, moving Green to second.
"I've been seeing the ball pretty well," Barnes, who finished 3-for-6 with three runs, said. "I knew it was going to be tough (in the last at bat). He blew a fastball past me early in the at bat. I knew I had to shorten up and I just wanted to keep the inning going."
Senior Jimmy Tanner (Fayetteville, Ga./Starr's Mill) drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. After a strikeout for the second out, Cook, despite still playing with a bruised right hand, managed two hits and two RBI in the game. He didn't get a chance to swing the bat, though, walking on five pitches, bringing up Harris and chasing Hembree, the Cougars' closer, from the mound.
On a 1-1 fastball, Harris drove the ball deep off the base of the right field wall, easily bringing in Barnes from third and setting off a wild celebration as the team caught up with Harris at second base.
"The first fastball came in and so I just timed it and was ready if he came back with it," Harris said. "I just drove it the other way. I felt like there were a lot of people here. It got loud here for a minute."
"Dre came up and did it," Barnes said. "My boy. We've been struggling a lot. This was huge for our team morale. This can help us the rest of the year."
The Cougars (24-11) took the lead on a towering three-run homer from Matt Leeds that cleared the batter's eye in center field and added an insurance run in the top of the ninth on another RBI single by Leeds to take a 10-8 lead, setting up Upstate's heroics.
Upstate jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, as Barnes singled on a liner off the pitcher's leg, took second on an error that helped Tanner reach and scored on a single by freshman Trey Richardson (Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins). Cook, in his first at bat back, followed with an RBI double to left center and Harris got the first of his four hits to bring in Richardson.
The Cougars cut the lead to two runs with a tally in the second, but Upstate took a 5-1 lead in the third with two more runs. Tanner led off with a double and Richardson followed by getting hit by a pitch. Cook laid down a sac bunt and Harris singled through the left side to score Tanner. After a walk, Miller drove in Richardson with a sac fly.
Charleston responded though with a four-run fourth to tie the game at five, as Jose Rodriguez hit a curve over the fence in right field. Upstate responded with a single tally in the bottom of the inning to take a 6-5 lead, as Tanner started the rally with a two-out double to left center. He took third on a balk and Richardson drove him in with a single up the middle.
In the sixth, the Cougars tied the game by using three hits and an error, but the Spartans again responded in the bottom of the inning, as freshman Brody Greer (Honea Path, S.C./Belton-Honea Path) led off with a single to center. After a sac bunt by Green and a wild pitch, Barnes drove a double into right field. After a fly out moved Barnes to third, he scored on an error by the first baseman, setting up Leeds' homer and Upstate's ninth-inning heroics.
Harris finished 4-for-5 with three RBI, raising his batting average all the way to .232. Tanner added three hits to move into a tie for third in school history with Chris Nowak (2002-04) with 232 career hits, just nine away from school history. Tanner posted three runs, as well. Richardson also went 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBI.
Leeds led the Cougars, going 3-for-5 with three runs, a homer, a triple and five RBI and Baker Knox went 3-for-4 with a run and two RBI. Rodriguez and Joey Bergman each added two hits and two runs.
Senior Tyler Oliver (Lawrenceville, Ga./Collins Hill) (2-1) earned the win in relief, tossing two innings and allowing two hits and a run. He struck out three in his 73rd career appearance. Heath Hembree (5-2) took the loss for Charleston, tossing 2/3 innings, allowing one hit, four walks and three runs. He struck out one.
Upstate hits the road on Wednesday for historic McCormick Field where it will face UNC Asheville at 1 p.m.