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March 19, 2013
VIDEO: Grayson Greiner
VIDEO: Kyle Martin
VIDEO: Joey Pankake
CHARLESTON - Really good to be back in South Carolina.
The South Carolina offense that had exploded for at least nine runs in five of seven games before being shackled for six runs in three games at Missouri (two wins) returned to form, blasting The Citadel for nine runs and eight hits in a 9-5 win on Tuesday. The No. 5 Gamecocks (18-3) smoked three home runs, including a two-run belt to dead center from Grayson Greiner, and survived a late uprising thanks to a key insurance run that was produced by fundamentals.
What was the difference? Well, playing on a clear, 75-degree night instead of a frigid Missouri tundra could have helped.
"I wouldn't really take much from last weekend," said shortstop Joey Pankake, who settled the game with a no-doubt two-run shot in the ninth inning. "In all consideration, it was really cold. We're not used to playing in that kind of weather. Maybe one person, (Michigan native) Joel Seddon, he's up near Canada. It's a while different world out in Missouri than it is here."
The Gamecocks, never quiet on Twitter after getting out of the other Columbia, certainly played like they were eager to get back in the warm(er) weather. After starter Jack Wynkoop (4-0) was touched for a leadoff triple and Mason Davis came around to score, he settled down and USC's bats came to his rescue.
Greiner smashed his second home run of the year off the batter's eye in center, 400 feet away, to take the lead and LB Dantzler cracked his team-leading seventh well over the right-center fence in the fourth inning. USC scored two more on back-to-back errors in the fifth, but The Citadel wasn't going to simply lay down and take it.
The Bulldogs scratched a run across in the sixth and then did their damage in the seventh. Reliever Patrick Sullivan's offerings were being deposited all over Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, and when Drew DeKerlegand lashed a triple into the left-center gap, it was 6-4. It immediately became 6-5 when the relay from Pankake was thrown past Chase Vergason, and DeKerlegand scampered home.
USC tightened its belts, got a huge strikeout from one-batter reliever Vince Fiori and a pop-up from Curt Britt. "I screwed up the seventh inning," coach Chad Holbrook said. "That was on me. I didn't go to Fiori soon enough."
But the Bulldogs (14-8) getting that close was enough heat for the Gamecocks to respond. They got right back to work.
Kyle Martin pinch-hit for Brison Celek to start the eighth, and roped a double into the right-field corner. "Got in there, basically just trying to hit something, get on base," Martin said. "Double came up, luckily. It felt great, seeing it fall. I honestly thought he was going to dive and catch it."
Martin chugged into second base and Tanner English, shelved with a shoulder problem, pinch-ran. Connor Bright dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt to get English to third, then Greiner lifted a long fly ball to center to score English and make it 7-5.
That was all the insurance that Holbrook needed. He immediately summoned closer Tyler Webb for a six-out save, and the veteran lefty, despite pitching through a stomach bug, retired all six of his batters for his eighth save. Pankake gave the Gamecocks more cushion with his dinger in the ninth, and USC had successfully taken its hitting tonic.
"They threw a haymaker at us, almost got back in the game, almost took the lead," Holbrook said. "I loved the way our guys responded to that."
USC went through five pitchers and kept finding out answers. The Gamecocks may not know until just before Friday's game hosting Arkansas who of their injured players may be available, but they like how the healthy ones are playing.
"We were just trying to stay within ourselves and do what we can do," Bright said. "We had a couple of big flies, but they weren't home-run swings. They were line-drive swings that happened to get out."
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