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March 12, 2013
In games against Rider over the weekend in which South Carolina often found runs tough to come by, the Gamecocks' bats exploded for 14 hits, half of which went for extra bases, in Tuesday's 12-3 win over USC Upstate.
Nine different Gamecocks got hits, and the seven extra-base hits, including five doubles and two triples, tied a season-high (USC had four doubles, a triple and two home runs against Albany in a 14-1 win on Feb. 24 that was also a no-hitter).
"We swung the bats well tonight," USC coach Chad Holbrook said. "(Joey Pankake, 3-for-3 with two walks and an RBI) continues to play well, just missed a home run, and Max (Schrock) was terrific again (2-for-3, three RBIs). Fourteen hits and no errors, that's a pretty clean game."
"Anytime you can get double-digit hits and double-digit runs against a really good team, you have to feel good about yourselves, and we do."
FRIDAY PITCHER STILL TBA: Holbrook said he'd announce who would start the Friday SEC opener at Missouri after Wednesday's game with Davidson. He did confirm that Nolan Belcher will throw on Saturday, but said he was not ready to name the other two yet except that Evan Beal will start one of the two games, either Friday or Sunday.
Against Davidson tomorrow, Joel Seddon will start, although Curt Britt, Josh Knab and Vince Fiori likely will pitch.
A PERFECT PANKAKE: Pankake was a perfect 5-for-5 reaching base on Tuesday, and his second-inning single to left extended his team-leading hitting streak to eight games.
COSTEN REBOUNDS: After starting the season hitting just .152, TJ Costen made a return to the starting lineup playing center field and responded by going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two doubles from the No. 9 spot in the order. The two doubles matched a season high for USC (LB Dantzler also had two doubles against Albany on Feb. 24). The night's work raised his batting average to .216, and his stock in Holbrook's eyes after a gloomy beginning to the season.
"TJ is one of those kids that's been struggling," Holbrook said. "I didn't make a decision to put him in there today until right before the game, right after BP. I wrestled with playing Shon Carson again or putting Graham Saiko in center field.
"TJ is a talented kid."
MOVIN' ON UP: USC continues to move up the Baseball America rankings, climbing to No. 5 in the poll released on Monday. Rounding out the other ranked SEC teams, Vanderbilt is No. 2, Ole Miss is No. 6, LSU is No. 7, Kentucky is No. 10, Mississippi State is No. 13 and Arkansas, USC's home conference-opening opponent in two weeks, is No. 15.
QUICK HOOK: Saiko got yanked from the game in the bottom of the first in what easily was Holbrook's quickest hook yet as a coach. After leading off with a single to right, he was picked off base when a throw over caught him moving to second base expecting contact, and erased him in an easy rundown.
The out cost the Gamecocks a run when Upstate's pitcher walked the next three batters. Sean Sullivan came in as a defensive replacement in left field to start the second and finished the game.
"I have some pet peeves, and (Saiko) executed one of them," Holbrook said. "I want our base-runners to be aggressive, and Graham is one of our best base-runners. He knows the game inside and out. He knows how to play.
"We teach our guys not to get picked off on hit-and-runs and run-and-hits. He's way too good to be getting picked off on a run-and-hit. If it's a straight steal or if it's first movement, you can get picked off all you want. But not when he's protected. That's not how we teach our kids to run the bases.
"Maybe I was still a little bit still mad from the base-running I saw Saturday. But he'll be back in there tomorrow. I love Graham Saiko. He's a good player."
SPARTAN SCARE: Last season, USC Upstate visited Columbia for a midweek game on May 15 when the Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 and led 3-0 going into the bottom of the second, but the game was halted and then canceled due to rain and lightning.
With the win, USC is 7-0 all-time against USC Upstate. That mark is 6-0 in Columbia and 1-0 in Spartanburg (a 14-6 win on April 21, 2009).
ASC > SEC?: So far this season, the Atlantic Sun Conference is 6-5 against the SEC. Four victories came over a Florida team ranked at the time (the Gators were swept by Florida Gulf Coast and lost to North Florida in their next game), while Georgia and Auburn both dropped games to Kennesaw State. USC Upstate almost extended the A-Sun's margin with a near-upset of then-No. 8 Kentucky on Feb. 18, losing 11-10 when the Wildcats scored five runs over the final two innings to escape with the win.
SHUTOUT CITY: USC's five shutouts in eight games was the first time the Gamecocks had accomplished that impressive feat since 2004. And of course, that's not even counting the no-hitter three USC hurlers combined to throw back on Feb. 24 against Albany in a 14-1 win. Albany's only run in that game came when the leadoff runner walked and a grounder to third turned into a two-base error when Chase Vergason's throw to first was wild, and a sacrifice fly to right plated the lead runner.
DANTZLER FIRST: Dantzler's two-RBI triple in the sixth inning was the first triple of his career.
AROUND THE SEC:
USC 12, USC Upstate 3
Missouri 9, Jackson State 3
Tennessee 4, Western Kentucky 0
Florida State 4, Florida 1
Memphis 6, Alabama 0
Kentucky 6, Ohio 3
Auburn 8, Kennesaw State 3
Ole Miss 10, Louisiana-Monroe 4
Georgia 9, Appalachian State 4
Mississippi State 13, Southern Miss 5
Arkansas 20, Alabama A&M 2
Texas A&M 6, Houston Baptist 5
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