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March 13, 2013
With the start of SEC play just around the corner, LB Dantzler has picked a good time for one of the hottest stretches of his career.
Thrusting his batting average over the prestigious .400 mark, Dantzler homered twice among his three hits, stroked a sacrifice fly and drove in a career-high six runs to spark a decisive 12-4 victory over Davidson on a chilly Wednesday in front of a scattered gathering at Carolina Stadium.
By improving to 15-2, USC's eighth straight victory assures that a confident Gamecock team will board the chartered flight to Missouri on Thursday for the first of 10 SEC regular-season series between this weekend and May 18.
Dantzler jump-started the 13-hit onslaught against six Davidson pitchers (coincidentally, on the same day a new Pope was elected in Vatican City, one of Davidson's hurlers was named Andrew Pope) by walloping a two-run homer into the USC bullpen in the bottom of the first inning. Later, he hit the first of back-to-back sacrifice flies in the bottom of the fifth.
"I was seeing the ball pretty well, but I've always said you can't drive in the runs if they aren't on base and I think Joey (Pankake) was on base for both of (the homers)," Dantzler said. "I'm just glad to get the win."
An inning later, the senior from Winter Haven, Fla., capped a clinching five-run surge in the sixth by powering a three-run long ball beyond the railing onto the grass overlooking the right-field wall.
When the night was over, Dantzler had a .429 batting average, six homers and 23 RBIs to his name after 17 games. In the pair of non-conference victories this week over USC Upstate and Davidson in which the Gamecocks battered the pitching staffs of those two teams for 24 runs and 27 hits, Dantzler amassed gaudy numbers -- a .667 batting average (4-of-6), two homers, his first career triple and eight RBIs.
"We feel good about the way we swung the bats in the middle of the week," coach Chad Holbrook said. "We've played 17 games and we've played well for the most part. Now SEC play starts and I think our players are excited about getting that part of our season started."
USC will carry a .305 team batting average into the upcoming Missouri series, 96 points higher than its opponents.
"The whole year, we knew we had it in us," Dantzler said. "We got off to a slow start and maybe had some nerves. I think it's great going into SEC play that we're hitting this well, and I hope we can keep it going."
Dantzler hit .262 (69-for-263) with 10 homers and 48 RBIs a year ago. But, after breaking his hamate bone in the fall (Jackie Bradley Jr. suffered the same injury a few years ago), Dantzler adjusted his approach at the plate. So far, it's worked wonders.
"He's more comfortable here now," Holbrook said. "A lot of times, when you get to a new place with new surroundings, you try to do too much because you want to make an impression. But he's very comfortable here and he knows we're counting on him.
"He has a lot of confidence and has now spent a year in the weight room with Billy Anderson. He's stronger, he's using the whole field a little bit more and even though he's a pull guy for the most part, he rarely hooks balls foul. He's staying behind the ball a lot better and hitting it with some backspin."
Max Schrock went 2-for-3 with an RBI single in the second inning when USC scored twice to take a 4-0 lead. The sacrifice flies by Dantzler and Grayson Greiner in the fifth pushed the lead to 6-0.
Schrock was 4-for-6 with two RBIs and four runs scored in the two midweek games heading into the Missouri series.
Sophomore right-hander Joel Seddon (four innings, no runs, two hits, six strikeouts, two walks), making his first start of the season, and five relievers held Davidson scoreless until the top of the eighth. By that point, USC held an 11-0 lead.
"I was just happy to get the opportunity to go out there and get the start," Seddon said. "My first couple of appearances didn't go so well, so it was good to stay out there a little longer. I did have a bit of a slow start but I think I got stronger as the game went on."
Because Seddon didn't last the minimum five innings, freshman right-hander Curt Britt was credited with his first career victory after holding Davidson hitless in two innings. Vince Fiori allowed just one hit in 1 2-3 innings.
"I was impressed with Joel Seddon, Curt Britt and Vince Fiori," Holbrook said. "I thought they threw the ball really well. It was very encouraging the way Vince threw the ball. It helps us with another lefty out of the bullpen and helps us going forward. That was one of the bright spots I took away from this game."
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Dantzler was en fuego with a pair of homers and six RBIs.
KEY MOMENT: USC never looked back after scoring four runs in the first two innings, the first two on Dantzler's wallop into the USC bullpen in the first.
TURNING POINT: Davidson had an opportunity to break out on top quickly, but Seddon fanned consecutive batters and induced a fly to left with two runners in scoring position in the first.
HOW THE RUNS SCORED
USC 1st - Saiko singled to right-center, Schrock grounded into U-3-6 double play (Saiko tagged out), Pankake walked, Dantzler homered to right (2 RBI), Greiner reached on throwing error (E1), Bright flied to left. TWO RUNS, TWO HITS (USC 2-0).
USC 2nd - Martin singled to left, Vergason popped to short, Costen singled to left-center, Saiko hit sacrifice fly to left (RBI), Schrock singled to center (RBI), Schrock advanced to second on balk, Pankake grounded to short. TWO RUNS, THREE HITS (USC 4-0).
USC 5th - Saiko walked, Schrock singled, Pankake hit by pitch, Dantzler hit sacrifice fly to right (RBI), Greiner hit sacrifice fly to left (TBI), Bright flied to left. TWO RUNS, ONE HIT (USC 6-0).
USC 6th - Martin singled, Martin advanced to second on wild pitch, Vergason singled, Costen walked, Saiko grounded into 6-4-3 double play (run scored), Schrock walked, Pankake singled to right (RBI), Dantzler homered to right (3 RBI), Greiner reached on fielding error, Bright flied to center. FIVE RUNS, FOUR HITS (USC 11-0).
DAV 8th - Brandt struck out, Miller grounded to first, (Knab for Fiori), Barna walked, Arkin (PH) singled to center, Zeblo singled to center (RBI), Becker hit by pitch, Middlebrooks struck out. ONE RUN, TWO HITS (USC 11-1).
USC 8th - Iskenderian singled to left, Arendas popped to second, Celek (PH) flied to left, Greiner walked, Iskenderian advanced to third and Greiner advanced to second on wild pitch, Payne walked, Iskenderian scored on wild pitch. ONE RUN, ONE HIT (USC 12-1).
DAV 9th - Foy singled to left, McLindon (PH) struck out, Tovsky (PH) singled to right, Ruzinsky (PH) singled to right, Barna doubled to right-center (2 RBI), Arkin walked, (Satterfield for Thomason), Zeblo grounded to short (RBI), Becker struck out swinging. THREE RUNS, FOUR HITS. GAME OVER (USC 12-4).
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