GREENVILLE - Muzzled for most the day, it only took two innings and a few gift offerings for South Carolina to pounce on its opportunity to once again seize the series from Clemson.
For the fourth consecutive annual spring series, the Gamecocks claimed bragging rights from the Tigers, using a couple of five-run frames to prevail, 10-2, Saturday before a split crowd of 7,182 fans, the largest attendance ever to pack Fluor Field for an afternoon of baseball.
"It's an exciting thing when South Carolina wins a series against Clemson," Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook said, "because we have the utmost respect for their program. So I've got an excited team in my locker room."
The Reedy River Rivalry is becoming more one-sided in recent years. Including NCAA regional results, South Carolina has now beaten Clemson six of the past seven, 9 of 11, 12 of 15 and 22 of 30 going back to 2006, the last year the Tigers topped the Gamecocks in the regular season and postseason series.
"You guys are the ones who get all excited about all that," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "How we play against them is very important for us, but at the same time, it's not going to dictate how the rest of the season goes, one way or the other. I'm proud of our program. Our fans should be proud of our program. Those who know what's going on know we play good baseball."
Third-ranked South Carolina (9-0) put up a five-spot in the third and ninth innings, as shortstop Marcus Mooney drove in three runs.
The Gamecocks did not have an extra-base hit in the game but were granted eight free passes by No. 11 Clemson's (6-3) pitching staff, including a pair with the bases loaded in the ninth to extend a 5-2 edge to 10-2.
South Carolina lefty Jack Wynkoop (3-0) went six innings for the victory, preserved by Joel Seddon's three-inning save. Matthew Crownover (2-1) picked up the loss for Clemson, even though four of his five yielded runs were unearned.
The top eight hitters in the Tigers' lineup hit safely, but they stranded 11 runners. Clemson is 9-for-45 with a man on base in the series, and have committed eight errors leading to eight unearned runs.
It is a heated in-state rivalry, and tempers boiled over at the conclusion of the top of the ninth. It started with a close call at home, when Gamecocks runner DC Arendas was ruled safe under catcher Chris Okey's mitt. Okey and Leggett immediately quarreled with home plate umpire Greg Street.
Meanwhile, Mooney attempted to advance to third. Okey fired the ball to third baseman Jay Baum, who tagged Mooney in time to end the inning. When Baum leaned down and pointed his finger in Mooney's face, Mooney objected, quickly standing to challenge Baum.
That drew catcalls from the crowd, intensified when players instinctively sought to rush toward the scene at third base. Coaches were able to restrain players in the dugout, making sure no bench-clearing brawl or serious tussles ensued.
"Yeah, I mean, it's Clemson-South Carolina. Emotions are going to get high from time to time," Holbrook said. "Their team and their dugout did a great job of controlling their emotions; our dugout and our kids did too. There's some pretty strict NCAA rules in place about leaving your position, and I think both teams handled it very, very well."
After an umpires conference with Holbrook and Leggett, no ejections were handed down.
"It was nothing. Both teams were playing hard, both teams were emotional," Leggett said. "What happened at third base, he slid in hard, they both were probably 50-50 at fault. But (our teams) have got a good relationship; we're going to play hard, they're going to play hard, there's nothing going on there at all."
Clemson hosts the series finale Sunday at 4 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Third base umpire Jacob Asher, center, rushes in to break up an argument between South Carolina's Eliott Caldwell (30) and Clemson's Tyler Kreiger during an NCAA college baseball game at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., on Saturday, March 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer) GREENVILLE NEWS OUT; SENECA JOURNAL OUT×