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March 9, 2013
VIDEO: Chad Holbrook
Despite a relatively comfortable 9-5 victory that guaranteed a series win over a Rider team that Chad Holbrook believes will make the NCAA tournament, South Carolina's coach was not a happy man on Saturday.
Sure, the Gamecocks (12-2) banged out 13 hits and scored eight runs by the fourth inning to establish a seven-run lead that afforded a measure of relaxation, compared to Friday's tight-knit 2-0 contest, but it was precisely the sloppiness that followed the big lead that had Holbrook seeing red.
"We made lots of mistakes," Holbrook said. "Base-running, bunts, hit-and-runs, reading balls in the dirt ... just bad. It wasn't the way South Carolina is supposed to play the game.
"The way we played today would get us beat a lot of games in our league, with the mistakes we made on the bases. We couldn't get runners home from third with less than two outs. Bad sac bunting. Getting doubled off on a bunt play. Those things are inexcusable. They're things we need to work on.
"But I'm glad to get the win. That's a scrappy team. That's a team that'll be in the NCAA tournament. I never feel at ease against those guys. Glad to get a win against a good Rider team."
Rider struck first with an unearned run in the top of the second. Right fielder Jerry Mulerig banged a single back through the box under the glove of starter Colby Holmes to get aboard, then advanced to third on a pickoff move that sailed over first baseman LB Dantzler's head. Mulerig then scored on a deep pop-up in foul ground near the stands northwest of first base.
The Gamecocks wasted no time answering the Broncs, however, posting three runs in the bottom of the second. It began with Max Schrock drawing a leadoff walk, then scampering to second on a wild pitch from Rider starter Kurt Sowa. Connor Bright followed by poking a single through the left side that allowed the speedy Schrock to score without a close throw home for the first run of the game.
Freshman Curt Britt, getting his first start of the year at designated hitter, followed by knocking a single to short left-center to put runners at first and second for his first career hit. Catcher Dante Rosenberg then lined a single to short center field, scoring Bright and moving Britt to third with no outs. The final run of the inning came a batter later, when Shon Carson got his first career RBI on a sacrifice grounder to short on the first ball he'd put in play in five plate appearances.
The 3-1 score held only for a half inning, when Bright got his second RBI of the day on his first career home run in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Bright lifted a ball to left field into the third row of the bleachers directly over Ray Tanner's retired number to give USC a 4-1 lead.
The Gamecocks extended the lead with four more runs in the fourth. Rosenberg led off being hit by a pitch, then advanced to second on a beautiful bunt single by Carson - his first career hit - to put runners at first and second with no outs. Graham Saiko followed with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, and a single to left field by Chase Vergason and subsequent throwing error scored Rosenberg and Carson.
Joey Pankake followed Vergason with a walk to put runners at first and second with one out, and after a Dantzler fly-out, Schrock laced an RBI single to right that got Pankake to third. The final run scored when a wild pitch allowed Pankake to score and gave USC an 8-1 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Holmes, who was getting by with spotty location while the Gamecocks built the lead, ran out of luck in the fifth. A leadoff walk - his second in a row - was followed by a fielder's choice that moved the runner to second. Another walk and consecutive singles plated a run, kept the bases loaded and forced reliever Joel Seddon into the game to stop the bleeding.
Seddon quickly struck out Rider's Justin Thomas, but allowed a one-hopper to center field that scored two runs. The next batter, Rider's Greg Fazio, gave the ball a ride to deep left that had the Gamecock faithful fearing the worst, but with his back against the wall, Saiko leaped to make a catch just under the yellow line that saved two runs from scoring, got the Gamecocks out of the inning and earned the win for Seddon, his first this year.
Holmes' line for Friday was not stellar: 4 1-3 innings pitched, five hits, four runs (three earned), four walks and four strikeouts.
"We're concerned with how Colby is throwing," Holbrook said. "He's up in the zone. Colby's a guy that has to live at the knees, change speeds, throw all his pitches for strikes. Right now he's pitching up in the zone, and the ball flattens out. When little guys pitch up, the ball is flat. Little guys really have to get out over the front leg and pitch downhill, and when he does, he's as good as anybody.
"But he's flat right now. He was flat last week against Clemson, he was flat today and on top of that, four walks in four and a third innings, that's not helping matters, either. But he's been around the block."
Fortunately for Holbrook and the Gamecocks, senior Adam Westmoreland came on in the sixth when Seddon faltered and was nearly perfect, allowing no hits over 3 2-3 innings to earn his first save this year.
"The one thing I felt great about today was Adam Westmoreland saved our bullpen," Holbrook said. "He pitched great. We need to have guys ready to step up, and it appears Adam is doing that.
"He allowed us to rest Tyler Webb and Patrick Sullivan, and that's big for us leading into tomorrow. He pitched great against Clemson, he pitched great today, he was not as good in the middle of the week against Ball State, but he's an older guy, he's experienced, he's getting a little confidence going, and that's very important. Three-and-two-thirds innings, no hits - that's impressive."
After another unearned Rider run in the top of the sixth thanks to a throwing error from Seddon made it an 8-5 USC lead, the Gamecocks got the final run of the game when Pankake led off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run that landed left of the Under Armour sign in the visiting bullpen. It was Pankake's third home run in his last four games.
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