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February 23, 2013

USC-Albany Diamond Extra

With so many new faces splashed around the diamond for South Carolina this season, it was a familiar face who had a career day at the plate and handed the Gamecocks a
comfortable 8-3 win over visiting Albany on Saturday.

First baseman LB Dantzler, tied for the team lead with a .333 average coming into the Albany series, increased that total with a monster day, setting career highs in hits (four) and RBIs (five). The senior from Winter Haven, Fla., had back-to-back RBI singles in the first and second innings to help USC (3-1) off to an early 4-0 lead and give starter Jordan Montgomery some breathing room, then delivered the coup de grace with a three-run homer to right field to put the game out of reach.

Dantzler's previous career-highs were three hits (twice, the most recent coming against Auburn in April 2012) and four RBIs (against VMI in the 2012 opening series).

SAIKO KILLER: For the third-straight game, junior-college transfer Graham Saiko batted first for the Gamecocks. After an offseason in which center fielder Tanner English was being groomed for the leadoff spot, Saiko entered Saturday's game hitting .300 and also improved his average against Albany.

Saiko reached base all five times he went to the plate, notching two hits, including an RBI single in the second, to go with three walks. He scored twice and was thrown out at the plate attempting to score.

HONORING HISTORY: Ray Tanner presented the 1977 USC baseball team with its College World Series runner-up rings in a ceremony on the field prior to the game. The attendees included Randy Martz and former major-league great Mookie Wilson (who drew the biggest round of applause), and coach June Raines.

STREAK BROKEN: Starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery picked up his second win of 2013, but lost a streak in the process. The two-out solo home run he allowed in the fourth inning was the first run the sophomore had given up in his previous 17 2-3 innings, dating to the 2012 College World Series. Montgomery finished the game with five innings pitched, allowing two runs, both earned, while striking out five and walking three on 90 pitches.

STREAK BROKEN, PART II: USC's three-straight one-run games to open the season were the first time that had happened in school history. Saturday's 8-3 win broke that streak of close calls.

IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE: It's USC catcher Grayson Greiner stealing second! USC coach Chad Holbrook said that he was going to be more aggressive on the basepaths this year, and he held true to his word when he sent Greiner with two outs in the fourth. Greiner beat the throw - barely - to record his first career stolen base.

MORE FIRSTS: Saturday marked a number of additional firsts for different Gamecocks. Right fielder TJ Costen and designated hitter Erik Payne each collected their first hits of the season, with Costen finishing 1-for-4 with a run scored and Payne going 1-for-5.

Additionally, freshman pitcher/first baseman Curt Britt made his first start on the mound and earned his first save (while also notching his first strikeout). Britt pitched four innings, allowing one run in two hits while striking out three and walking none.

SCHROCK SCUFFLING: While USC tallied a season-high 11 hits on Saturday, freshman second baseman Max Schrock continued his season-opening slump, going 0-for-4 on the day despite having runners on base in front of him every time, including the bases loaded with no one out in the second and the bases loaded with one out in the third. He did manage a sacrifice fly in that situation that ended the inning when Tanner English was thrown out trying to tag at third.

While he did get a walk and score a run in the sixth when Dantzler homered, Schrock is hitting just .067 (1-for-15) for the season.

NICE MEETIN' YA: Saturday's game between the Gamecocks and Albany marked the first meeting between the two schools. Albany plays in the America East
conference along with last year's Omaha Cinderella team, Stony Brook, plus Maine, Binghamton, Maryland-Baltimore County and Hartford.

Middle Tennessee 2, Auburn 1
Tennessee 11, Arizona State 2
Belmont 11, Georgia 2
Georgia 2, Belmont 1
South Carolina 8, Albany 3
Auburn 5, College of Charleston 1
Ole Miss 1, Rhode Island 0
Arkansas 5, Evansville 2
Memphis 5, Missouri 3
Vanderbilt 11, Monmouth 1
Florida Gulf Coast 8, Florida 3
Kentucky at Coastal Carolina, ppd.
Alabama 4, Florida Atlantic 2
Mississippi State 8, Samford 2
Pepperdine at Texas A&M, 7 p.m.
Purdue at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m.
BYU 9, LSU 4

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