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GREENVILLE — Through 6 1/2 innings Friday in the NCAA Greenville Regional, Ohio State and its Big Ten pedigree held firm in the sweltering heat of eastern North Carolina.
But as the game’s final third got underway, South Carolina, no strangers to humid June days, had other plans.
Trailing 2-0 in the seventh inning as the Buckeyes inserted All-American closer Seth Kinker, South Carolina’s Danny Blair, a .186 hitter who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, launched a three-run homer to right field to kick off a five-run inning as the Gamecocks moved forward in the winner’s bracket with a 8-3 victory in Clark LeClair Stadium.
South Carolina, the No. 2 seed in the double-elimination, four-team regional, improved to 34-24 and will face either host East Carolina or No. 4 UNCW on Saturday at 5. Ohio State, the No. 3 seed, dropped to 36-23 and draws the Pirates-Seahawks loser at noon Saturday.
Friday’s ECU-UNCW game ended well after deadline.
Ohio State took the early 1-0 lead on a solo home run by Dillon Dingler and doubled its advantage on Dingler’s RBI double in the top of the seventh.
Consecutive singles by Hunter Taylor and Jacob Olson were followed by a Matt Wiliams sacrifice bunt. Up stepped Blair for his first at-bat, and the lefty steered a 1-2 offering from Kinker, the losing pitcher, over the right-field wall.
The Gamecocks, who wouldn’t trail again, expanded the margin on Justin Row’s two-run single and tacked on three more runs in the eighth.
South Carolina tallied 14 hits, compared to nine for Ohio State. Pohl’s sacrifice fly capped the scoring for the Buckeyes in the ninth.
Adam Hill started for the Gamecocks and lasted four innings, but departed after an apparent injury and allowing four hits.
Row and Carlos Cortes were each 3 for 5 to pace South Carolina offensively.