By Rixon Lane:
Five years ago, South Carolina and Clemson came together to make one of the best decisions in rivalry history.
The Gamecocks and Tigers ditched the odd, four-game, home-and-home, scattered series in favor of a three-game series played at both home stadiums and one neutral site.
Since then, the two schools have faced off fifteen times in the regular season. With the rivalry set to renew this weekend, here's a ranking of the most competitive, exciting series over that five-year span.
5. 2014 (Gamecocks win 3-0)
No. 3 South Carolina opened the series by rallying from a 6-1 deficit and scoring eight unanswered runs to from the fifth inning on to take a 9-6 victory over No. 11 Clemson at Carolina Stadium. Grayson Greiner's fifth inning grand slam cut the Tiger lead to 6-5 and Cody Mincey earned his first win as a Gamecock, allowing just one hit in 2.2 innings of relief.
The Gamecocks clinched the series the following day at Fluor Field with five runs in the third inning and five more in the ninth to claim a 10-2 victory. Despite the eight-run margin of victory, the game still featured plenty of fireworks. Following a dustup between Jay Baum and Marcus Mooney at third base in the ninth inning, Elliott Caldwell had some choice words for the Tigers.
Clemson had an opportunity to salvage a game on Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium and held a 3-1 lead going into the top of the ninth inning. South Carolina was down to its final strike with two runners on, when Brison Celek reached on a single to load the bases. Marcus Mooney then tied the game with a two-run singe and Tanner English doubled home two more runs to cap the comeback and complete the sweep.
4. 2013 (Gamecocks win 2-1)
Jordan Montomgery tossed eight innings of scoreless work and silenced the Clemson crowd as No. 7 South Carolina opened the weekend with a 6-0 win over the Tigers. Clemson's defense committed three errors on the night and the Tiger hitters could not solve Montgomery, who went on to strike out a career-high nine batters.
Clemson evened the series the following day at Fluor Field, jumping out to a 5-0 lead through five innings and hanging on for a 6-3 victory. Adam Westmoreland came out of the bullpen and gave South Carolina a chance by retiring 11 consecutive batters at one point. However, the Gamecocks could not overcome the early deficit.
With the series on the line, Nolan Belcher tossed a gem on Sunday at Carolina Stadium to give the Gamecocks bragging rights for another season. The fifth-year senior allowed just three hits, struck out seven batters, and walked none for South Carolina's first complete game shutout since 2010.
3. 2010 (Tigers win 2-1)
In the first edition of the three-game format, No. 9 Clemson earned a 4-3 win over No. 15 South Carolina at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, thanks to a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning from Wilson Boyd. South Carolina took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly from Adrian Morales, but the Gamecocks could not hold on.
The series moved to Fluor Field on Saturday, where the Gamecocks relied on a three-RBI day from Whit Merrifield and a three-run ninth inning to take a 7-5 victory. Clemson opened up a 4-0 lead in the first two innings, but the Gamecocks rallied. Trailing 4-3 entering the ninth, Merrfield doubled home the game-tying RBI. Jackie Bradley put South Carolina ahead with an RBI single and later scored on a base hit from Kyle Enders to give the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish.
Clemson pounded the Gamecocks on Sunday en route to a 19-6 win in front of the largest crowd in Carolina Stadium history at that time. The Tiger recorded 14 hits on the day and benefitted from three Gamecock errors, scoring 11 runs in the final four innings.
2. 2012 (Gamecocks win 2-1)
The series opened in Charleston at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park and fans were treated to a thriller. Sean Sullivan and Connor Bright drove home a pair of runs with two outs in the 11th inning to give No. 2 South Carolina a 3-2 win over No. 15 Clemson. Michael Roth allowed one run on four hits in 7.1 innings of work and Evan Marzilli made a brilliant diving catch in the bottom of the 11th to end the night.
The Gamecocks took a 6-2 lead through the first three innings on Saturday and were able to hang on for a series-clinching 9-6 win at Carolina Stadium. Adam Matthews and LB Dantzler homered, while Evan Beal earned his first career victory for South Carolina in relief. Seven different Gamecocks recorded a hit against the Tiger pitching staff.
Clemson was able to take the Sunday contest thanks to a three-run comeback over the final two innings. South Carolina lead 5-3 entering the eighth inning, but the Tigers were able to score three runs off reliever Forrest Koumas and avoid the sweep.
1. 2011 (Gamecocks win 2-1)
The fireworks began Friday night at Carolina Stadium. Clemson took a 3-0 lead on starter Michael Roth in the top of the second, but Brady Thomas answered with a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame. Roth and Jeff Schaus got tangled up on a pickoff play and exchanged words in the third inning, an omen of things to come over the weekend. South Carolina's bats continued to heat up, as Christian Walker and Scott Wingo each added two-run home runs to give the Gamecocks a 6-3 win.
After Saturday's game at Fluor Field was postponed due to rain, Clemson held serve at home on Sunday, scoring six runs on Matt Price in the eighth inning to take a 10-5 win over the Gamecocks. However, the main story was the inspection of Jackie Bradley's bat following a home run in the top of the first inning. After the game, Clemson's Will Lamb called Gamecock starter Tyler Webb "soft."
More rain on Monday pushed the deciding game at Fluor Field to Tuesday night. Clemson took a 1-0 lead on a Richie Shaffer home run in the fourth inning, but South Carolina rallied in the seventh. Peter Mooney tied the game on an RBI single and Jake Williams followed with a three-run, pinch-hit homer to put South Carolina ahead 4-1. Christian Walker's single in the eighth inning increased the lead to 5-1, but Clemson clawed back in the ninth. The Tigers trimmed the lead to 5-3 with two outs and cut the deficit to one on a Will Lamb triple. Lamb wound up in a war of words with Adrian Morales on third base following the hit, but could only watch as Matt Price struck out Jon McGibbon to seal the win for South Carolina. Afterwards, Gamecock head coach Ray Tanner recapped the weekend's "shenanigans."
The Gamecocks and Tigers will begin this year's series tomorrow night at 6:30 at Clemson.