Gamecocks stumble out of the SEC blocks

Mississippi relief pitcher Brett Huber celebrates the 3-0 victory over South Carolina on Wednesday at the SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. -- This time around Drew Pomeranz got the win and Ole Miss got the shutout.

By defeating South Carolina 3-0 Wednesday afternoon at Regions Park in the first round of the SEC tournament, the Rebels reversed the result of last month when the big left-hander threw against the Gamecocks.

No. 10 USC, the tournament's third-seed, faces No. 13 Auburn (39-19), the SEC's second seed, at 10:30 a.m. today in an elimination game, while sixth-seeded Ole Miss (37-20) faces seventh-seeded Alabama (35-21), which defeated Auburn 7-1, in a winners bracket game.

In April, South Carolina defeated Ole Miss 5-0 when ace Blake Cooper threw a complete-game shutout against the Rebels. Pomeranz, who's expected to be an early first-round pick in the MLB draft next month, pitched seven shutout innings of two-hit baseball but left with a no-decision.

Pomeranz, a 6-5 junior, pitched seven more shutout innings Wednesday against the Gamecocks, allowing six hits, all singles, to go with seven strikeouts, which boosted his league-leading total to 134.

But the big difference was just one walk, three fewer than his first outing against USC.

"He was locating his fastball," said USC outfielder Jackie Bradley, who got two hits off Pomeranz. "He'd throw any pitch in any count and use both sides of the plate."

USC coach Ray Tanner credited Pomeranz, who was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday, for mixing his pitches and pounding the strike zone.

"He was pretty sharp with his control," Tanner said. "He doesn't give you a whole lot, and we couldn't put anything together."

But Tanner admitted to being disappointed with the approach of his hitters, who also struggled in losing two games to Florida last weekend.

The shutout was also the first thrown against the Gamecocks in 154 games, dating back to a 2008 loss to Georgia.

"I don't want to take anything away from Pomeranz and (Ole Miss reliever Brett) Huber," Tanner said. "I'm getting a little frustrated at our offense. We got a few hits, but we have to do a better job. We have to compete better."

He also didn't have Cooper matching zeroes with Pomeranz. He decided to hold his senior, who is 10-1 with a 3.08 ERA, until today's game in order to keep him on a full week's rest, a decision he did not regret.

Six USC pitchers allowed three runs on nine hits.

"From a positive standpoint, our pitching staff gave us an opportunity to win today," Tanner said.

But Ole Miss got the big blow that the Gamecocks could not.

The Rebels took a 2-0 lead off sophomore left-hander Nolan Belcher in the top of the third inning. Mike Snyder led off with a single, and one out later, Miles Hamblin drilled a long home run to right field to score both runs. Hamblin, who was hitting ninth in the order, crushed a 3-2 fastball for his fifth homer of the season.

"Obviously, I made a mistake," said Belcher (3-1), who was making his first conference start since last season's tournament. "This is the SEC. You make a mistake, they make you pay."

Said Hamblin, "I battled him to 3-2 and got the pitch I wanted."

The Gamecocks got a runner to third base in the second and third innings off Pomeranz (8-2), who lowered his conference-best ERA to 2.21, but they couldn't score either time.