Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
February 24, 2013
South Carolina's late-afternoon strategy was fairly simple - perform most of the heavy lifting early and then turn everything over to the deep pitching staff and solid defense.
Scoring all of their runs in the first three innings, the Gamecocks held off Albany 6-4 in the second game of a doubleheader on at Carolina Stadium, completing a three-game sweep over the Great Danes that improved USC to 5-1 on the young season.
USC squares off with Furman at 4 p.m. on Tuesday in the first 2013 contest against a school from the Palmetto State.
Ahead 6-0 entering the middle innings, USC was able to hold off the Great Danes behind starter Nolan Belcher, who allowed eight hits and two runs with seven strikeouts and no walks, and relievers Patrick Sullivan (2.1 innings) and closer Tyler Webb, who earned his second save of the season despite yielding a sacrifice fly and run-scoring single.
Albany brought the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth, but Webb fanned Gordon Madej, Albany's top hitter, for the final out.
The trio of pitchers utilized by coach Chad Holbrook scattered 11 hits and combined for 12 strikeouts and no walks, while the Gamecocks' defense was airtight throughout with no errors. USC committed just one error during the three-game sweep.
Belcher recorded his first victory of the season after suffering a hard-luck loss to Liberty in the series finale last week.
Belcher now has a dazzling strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16 strikeouts compared to one walk in 11.2 innings pitched this season.
"Nolan battled. He gave up eight in six innings, but he kept them at bay with seven strikeouts. That helped him," Holbrook said. "When you have 12 strikeouts and no walks, it's tough to lose a game like that."
USC required solid pitching and defense to push it past the finish line because the offense was held in check over the final five at-bats of Sunday's nightcap, mustering just four hits and getting one runner as far as third base.
"I was disappointed with some things in Game 2," Holbrook said. "But it was a clean game defensively. We started Game 2 with the right mindset and got off to a 6-0 lead. Then we had some bad at-bats from the middle of the game on. I don't know if we lost our concentration or not. Our bats weren't as good as we would like them to be. But all in all, it was a good day."
Sullivan mowed down the first seven batters he faced after taking over for Belcher at the start of the seventh inning. Sullivan fanned four during that stretch, but was replaced by Webb after he was knocked for a single (on an 0-2 pitch) and double with one out in the top of the ninth, denying the senior from Columbia his second career save.
"Patrick Sullivan was great until the last couple of hitters," Holbrook said. "He made an 0-2 mistake there and then hung a slider for the double down the line. Patrick was really good. His first two innings were very clean. Patrick is tough when he's throwing strikes. He changes arm angles and he's tough on right-handed hitters."
Webb threw just 13 pitches - nine were strikes - in his only appearance of the weekend.
"I was really pleased with how Tyler threw," Holbrook said. "His velocity was around 93 miles per hour. The way Tyler throws, when he's hitting 93 on the gun, that's like 95 or 96 to a hitter, because he can't see the ball with the deception he has."
USC jumped to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first as a result in part of more shaky defense by the Great Danes. A fielding error by the Albany pitcher, a single by Joey Pankake (who exited the game shortly thereafter with a muscle strain in his right leg) and double to right by the hot-hitting LB Dantzler plated the runs.
The second run of the inning scored on an error by the Albany right fielder - the fifth in 10 innings by the Great Danes - off the bat of Kyle Martin. Moments later, Grayson Greiner stroked a sacrifice fly to plate Dantzler with the final run of the inning.
Albany put together consecutive singles in the top of the second for its first hits in 11 innings against USC pitching.
The Gamecocks expanded their lead in the bottom of the second when Tanner English doubled to right, smartly moved to third on a ground-out and strolled home on a triple rocketed into deep left-center by Max Schrock.
The Albany center fielder laid out for the drive, but the ball tipped off the top of his glove and ricocheted towards the visitor's bullpen.
An inning later, Greiner singled home Dantzler, who had doubled for the second time leading off the inning. Following a walk, TJ Costen lofted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Martin with what turned out to be USC's final run.
In the end, that was all that was needed.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: The performances by pitchers Belcher, Sullivan and Webb allowed USC to retain an early lead. Their combined strike percentage was an impressive 77.9 percent (106 of 136 pitches).
KEY MOMENT: After USC built the 6-0 lead, Belcher gave up two runs in the top of the fourth, but shut the door with an inning-ending strikeout. That jump-started a stretch in which USC hurlers retired 14 of 15 batters, keeping the Great Danes at a distance until the ninth, when they mounted a rally that fell short.
TURNING POINT: USC grabbed the early momentum with the three runs in the first. It never trailed in the game after that point, although Albany threatened on a couple of occasions. Both of Albany's errors occurred in the first inning and they played an integral role in the Gamecocks scoring three times.
HOW THE RUNS SCORED
USC 1st - Saiko flied to left, Schrock reached on fielding error (E1), Pankake singled to right-center, Dantzler doubled to right (RBI), Martin reached on fielding error (E9)(RBI), Greiner hit sacrifice fly to center (RBI), Vergason struckout. THREE RUNS, TWO HITS (USC 3-0).
USC 2nd - Costen struckout, English doubled to right, Saiko grounded to third (English to 3B), Schrock tripled to left-center (RBI), Arendas struckout. ONE RUN, TWO HITS (USC 4-0).
USC 3rd - Dantzler doubled to right, Martin walked, Martin advanced to second and Dantzler advanced to third on a wild pitch, Greiner singled to center (RBI), Vergason walked, Costen hot sacrifice fly to center (RBI), English lined to right, Saiko flied to center. TWO RUNS, TWO HITS (USC 6-0).
ALB 4th - Nethaway singled to right, Muller singled to left, Hoagboon singled to first (RBI), Mund fouled out to catcher, Welsh struckout, Harasta singled to right (RBI), Gaige struckout. TWO RUNS, FOUR HITS (USC 6-2).
ALB 9th - Hoagboon struckout, Mund singled to right, Welsh doubled to left, Harasta hit sacrifice fly to right (RBI), Gaige singled to center (RBI), Madej struckout. TWO RUNS, THREE HITS. GAME OVER (USC 6-4).
South Carolina NEWS