Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
March 15, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Evan Beal doesn't consider it an audition, or a race for the job once Jordan Montgomery returns. He just considers it a chance to pitch.
With the way he's going, he may not ever have to consider it - the Friday spot may be permanently his.
Fifth-ranked South Carolina's newly minted ace bored through Missouri's bats in each team's SEC opener on Friday, striking out 10 on the way to a 4-1 win. Beal (2-0), a week after striking out six with two walks and a hit in six innings against Rider, spoiled the Tigers' welcoming party into the league with another dominant performance, and showed that USC doesn't necessarily miss Montgomery.
Don't get the wrong idea - once Montgomery returns from the stress reaction in his throwing arm, USC (16-2, 1-0 SEC) will love to have him back. If nothing else, the Gamecocks will be that much better.
They surely aren't suffering in the meantime.
"Jordan's a great starter," Beal said. "He's got great stuff. If I keep pitching the way I am I don't want to jinx myself. I'm just going to go out there and give my team the best opportunity to win. Maybe it gives the coaches hope that they don't have to rush him back. We all want the best for Jordan."
Beal blamed himself for giving up too many hits hits, but he was terrific in damage control all evening. Two of his first three batters reached, only to die on base as Beal struck out Dylan Kelly and induced a fly-out from Case Munson. Then when Missouri (5-8, 0-1) put two runners on in the fourth and fifth innings, Beal struck out the final two batters in the former and got harmless outs in the latter.
A multi-talented pitcher who struggled in the fall and spring, Beal has sprung to life with his latest chance. While nothing's ever certain, it seems likely that Beal has earned himself another start next week when USC opens its home SEC schedule against Arkansas. Montgomery, coach Chad Holbrook said, is out for Arkansas and doubtful for Texas A&M the next week, meaning that Beal, if he keeps throwing like he has been, will continue to be the guy.
"That's up to the coaches," Beal said. "If they want to throw me out there again, I'll give it my best effort and try to get the team a win.
"I really didn't know how many strikeouts I had. I was just trying to go out there, get ahead on my first pitch."
Beal gave up eight hits but only one run, walking one and striking out 10. He was locked into a strikeout duel with Missouri's Rob Zastryzny (3-1), who also struck out 10 but had as many touchable moments as he did untouchable ones.
After buzzing through USC's lineup with four strikeouts among his first seven batters, Grayson Greiner ripped a line drive into the Tigers' bullpen with one out in the third inning. That woke the Gamecocks; TJ Costen and Graham Saiko followed with hits, while Chase Vergason was beaned.
That rally was snuffed when Joey Pankake tapped into a double play, but USC had successfully removed Superman's cape. The Gamecocks put the leadoff man on in the next three innings, and scratched enough runs across to win.
Pankake drove in Greiner with a two-out single in the fifth but Missouri immediately scored its run in the bottom half. USC put its first two men on in the sixth due to errors, each which popped in and out of fielders' gloves, but looked to be nailing another scoreless inning shut as George Iskenderian struck out and Greiner flew out to right.
Up stepped Costen, hitting .225 coming into the game, and he was quickly down 1-2. He finally got the pitch he wanted and slapped it through short, giving the Gamecocks all the runs they'd need.
"He left a breaking ball over the plate, I was fortunate to get the barrel on it and poke it through," Costen said. "My swing, I'll be the first one to tell you, I've struggled this year, bad. Not exactly how I've wanted to play. My swing's still not where it needs to be, but I'm shortening up, trying to get the barrel on the ball, and good things will happen if I do that."
"I actually just tell him to hit ground balls to the shortstop," Holbrook said. "I try to simplify it for him. It makes him kind of focused on shortening his swing. Big swing of the bat for him."
Beal departed in the seventh after giving up a one-out single, but Adam Westmoreland relieved and got out of the inning. He plunked a batter with two outs in the eighth, which got Tyler Webb on for his sixth save.
USC battled against another typical Friday SEC pitcher - the Gamecocks will see a future all-star staff of them this year - and got ready for a series-clinching situation. Nolan Belcher and Colby Holmes will each get the ball on Saturday, looking for a series win and potentially a sweep.
"Friday night in the SEC," Holbrook said. "Their guy was terrific. Evan matched him pitch-for-pitch, we got a big swing of the bat from Grayson, and a big two-out, two-strike hit from TJ that kind of let us catch our breath a bit. It was a big win for us."
NOTE: Due to expected inclement weather on Sunday, USC and Missouri agreed to play a doubleheader on Saturday. The Gamecocks and Tigers will play two nine-inning games, beginning at 3 p.m.
South Carolina NEWS