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February 26, 2012

Pitching, long ball complete sweep



Another afternoon at Carolina Stadium, another dominant pitching performance by South Carolina.

Supported by five early runs, Colby Holmes and three relievers combined for an impressive three-hitter on Sunday as USC blanked Elon 6-0 to complete a three-game series sweep over the Phoenix in front of 7,304 mostly garnet and black-clad fans.

USC limited Elon to three runs (only one earned) and seven hits while striking out 32 in 27 innings over the course of the three-game set. The mistake-prone Phoenix had more errors (eight) than hits in the series.

Holmes hurled the first 5 2-3 innings, allowing three hits while striking out six, walking three and throwing 88 pitches.

"I was very happy today with the start we got from Colby Holmes," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "Once again, our starting pitching gave us a chance to win the game. He was solid and the guys who came in behind him did a nice job as well."

The junior right-hander has yet to allow a run in 10 2-3 innings pitched this season, giving the Gamecocks, as expected, one of the top weekend rotations in the country.

"Colby has been one of those guys that has toiled in the shadows of (Michael) Roth and (Matt) Price, and some other guys," Tanner said. "He's been pretty steady for us. He's better. His fastball has a little more giddyup now. He can get his change-up going, though he missed a little bit with it today. But he got some over. He's pretty solid out there. He competes. He's intense."

The three relievers (left-hander Vince Fiori, right-hander Ethan Carter and right-hander Evan Beal) utilized by USC on Sunday combined to sit down all 10 batters they faced over the final 3 1-3 innings with three strikeouts.

"This was a really good weekend for us if you look at the results and being able to win all three games against an Elon club that's been in the postseason four of the last six years," Tanner said. "They should have been there last year and should have a chance to compete this year for the Southern Conference championship."

All the offense USC needed came in the first two innings.

In the bottom of the first, LB Dantzler followed a walk to Tanner English and a hard single into right by Christian Walker by launching a towering opposite-field homer on a 2-1 pitch over the left-field fence into the Elon bullpen.

It was Dantzler's second homer of the season and gave him a team-leading nine RBIs.

"I feel real comfortable up there," Dantzler said. "I didn't get the hits this weekend (the homer was his only hit in 10 at-bats), but we're 6-0 and I feel right at home."

The following inning, a single by Joey Pankake and walk to Connor Bright set the stage for English, who rifled a two-out shot into the left-center gap.

English, the fastest player on the team and one of the quickest players Tanner has ever coached, raced all the way to third with his first career triple as Pankake and Bright (who made his second straight start) scored easily.

"He has instincts and he can run," Tanner said. "I don't think people realize how hard it is to hit a triple in this ballpark. He was thinking triple right out of the box. He is still growing."

Six different players had one hit apiece for USC on Sunday.

English is batting .333 (7-for-21) after six games with five RBIs. The two-run triple was his first career extra-base hit. The freshman from Murrells Inlet also made a couple of sparkling defensive plays in right, including the first out of the game when he made a running catch moving towards the line.

"The play Tanner English made out in right field (for the first out) was not a routine play," Tanner said. "It was hit towards the line, but he went over and makes the play. When the ball was hit, I did not expect that ball to be caught. I was thinking double maybe, and if we cut it off, we might be able to keep him at first base."

USC's final run came in the fourth when Evan Marzilli delivered a one-out RBI single, scoring freshman TJ Costen from second. Costen singled and moved to second on a throwing error on a ball off the bat of Bright.

"It dawned on me early in the game we were running," Tanner said. "We had guys getting down the line."

After scoring five runs off Elon starter David Whitehead, USC was shut down by left-hander Spencer Medick on two hits over the next four innings.

The only run against Medick came on Marzilli's RBI single, which turned out to be the last hit for the Gamecocks on the afternoon. The Elon bullpen sat down 14 of USC's final 15 batters.

"I'd to see us become a little more offensive at times," Tanner said. "We got out of the blocks today, but then their bullpen came in and shut us down pretty good. Fortunately, we had a few runs on the board and we continued to pitch well."

USC hosts Presbyterian at 4 p.m. on Tuesday in the initial midweek game of the season. Once that game is over, the Gamecocks begin preparations for a three-game series against rival Clemson.

Tanner said freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery is the probable Tuesday starter.

Box score

NOTES

* The three-game sweep expanded USC's advantage in the all-time series against Elon to 10-3.

* USC has a team batting average of .292 (56-of-192) compared to the opponents' average of .102 (18-for-177) through six games.

* In 54 innings pitched, USC hurlers have allowed seven runs on 18 hits with 68 strikeouts and 12 walks. They have given up just three extra-base hits.

SEC BASEBALL SCHEDULE/SCORES (Sunday)
Alabama 9, Arkansas Pine-Bluff 3 (Alabama 3-0)
Valparaiso 10, Arkansas 9 (Arkansas 2-1)
Georgia 3, Winthrop 0 (Georgia 3-0)
Kentucky 7, Buffalo 6 (Kentucky 3-0)
Appalachian State 11, LSU 1 (Appalachian State 2-1)
Tennessee 10, Seton Hall 2 (Tennessee 3-0)
Oregon 7, Vanderbilt 6 (Oregon 3-0)
Florida 5, William & Mary 3 (Florida 3-0)
Ole Miss 10, UNC-Wilmington 5 (Ole Miss 3-0)
Mississippi Valley State at Mississippi State, late

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