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March 5, 2013
In a game in which No. 6 South Carolina got up early and never looked back offensively, it was the pitching performance of freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop that stole the show on Tuesday in a 10-0 win over Ball State.
Pitching on a cool, wet night, Wynkoop was masterful in keeping the visiting Cardinals off-balance, retiring the first 16 batters he faced while the Gamecocks (9-2) built a comfortable 7-0 lead around him until he left the game after six innings. The 6-foot-5 freshman from Virginia Beach, Va., was flirting with a perfect game with one out in the sixth, when he allowed a one-out and two-out single before closing the frame on a fly-out to center field that earned loud applause from the Gamecock faithful, who soldiered through the damp conditions.
"I felt good," said Wynkoop, who improved to 2-0 on the season and kept his ERA spotless at 0.00. "The mindset was to go out there and throw strikes, pound the zone and get ground balls. I feel like I did that tonight."
Wynkoop's only challenge came not as much from Ball State as from the long waits on the bench between innings, as the Gamecocks scored in four of the first six innings and got the leadoff runner aboard in each of the first four innings.
"Obviously, it's good that our team was out there scoring runs," Wynkoop said. "I had the heat on my arm, so my arm was fine. I just tried to not let the long innings affect me at all and it didn't, so that was good."
Pitching in relief of Wynkoop, relievers Vince Fiori, Joel Seddon and Forrest Koumas combined for six strikeouts and only one hit while recording the team's third shutout in its previous four games. For the game, the Gamecock staff struck out 11 while walking none.
"Our pitching was terrific," coach Chad Holbrook said. "It was good to get our ninth win, and it was a very clean game. I thought we had some good at-bats. We pitched incredibly well, and Wynkoop was very impressive.
"The thing that's most impressive about our pitching staff thus far is that our strikeout-to-walk ratio is incredible. You look at our line and see 11 strikeouts and no walks; that's been terrific for us. Clean defense, no walks, no errors and some good at-bats. That's a good win for us."
Doing the most damage offensively was shortstop Joey Pankake, who smoked his first home run of the season over the fence in left-center field with two aboard in the fourth to turn a 4-0 lead into a 7-0 lead and provide more than enough cushion for a USC staff that has been spectacular of late.
"Joey had the big swing of the bat there to give us that nice cushion, and it was good to see him swing the bat that way," Holbrook said. "I thought he was locked-in tonight."
Pankake, who finished 1-for-3 but also walked twice and scored two runs, had been battling a nagging hip injury of late but said he was feeling better.
"The hip, we've done everything we can to get it as well as it can be and it hasn't really bothered me the past couple of games, so we're getting somewhere," Pankake said. "The home run, it was a good day to hit if you're right-handed, because the wind was blowing out."
USC tallied 14 hits on the night, with leadoff hitter Graham Saiko leading the way with a 3-for-4 night, including hits in his first three plate appearances. Other Gamecocks with multiple hits were Dante Rosenberg (2-for-5, two RBIs) Max Schrock (2-for-5) and Tanner English (2-for-5, two RBIs).
Holbrook said that despite the 10 runs and 14 hits, he was more impressed with the play of his defense and staff.
"When you pitch and play defense, you're going to win your fair share of games," Holbrook said. "That's kind of what we've done the last several years.
"You can't ask our pitching staff to throw shutouts all the time. Any time you throw a shutout, it's a surprise. But our pitchers have thrown very well. I don't think we have dominant stuff from first-, second-round guys, but we have guys who know how to pitch and change speeds and throw strikes and work fast. We've shown that works, too."
The Gamecocks and Ball State play once more, at at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Holbrook named freshman right-hander Curt Britt the probable starter.
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