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February 24, 2013

First no-hitter in 38 years propels USC



Nobody needed it more than Max Schrock.

The Chapel Hill, N.C., native was one of the most talked-about prospects in South Carolina's latest freshman class, but his 1-for-16 start at the plate perhaps had some folks questioning what the fuss was all about.

Until the fifth inning of Sunday's first game, that is.

Along with a leadoff solo homer by Chase Vergason, Schrock ignited a nine-run fifth inning with a sharp two-run single through the middle and USC cruised to a 14-1 victory over Albany in the first game of a doubleheader at sunny Carolina Stadium.

Those nine runs were the most in a single inning by the Gamecocks since a 2010 win over Valparaiso.

Three pitchers - starter Colby Holmes and relievers Forrest Koumas and Josh Knab - combined for USC's first no-hitter since 1975 on 119 pitches. They fanned four with four walks while facing 32 batters, five over the minimum.

Holmes, a senior right-hander from Conway, set down Albany in order five times in his six innings to earn his first victory of the season. The lone run he surrendered to Albany came in the fourth on a walk, error and sacrifice fly.

Koumas, who failed to retire a batter in his first appearance last week, fanned one and walked three in two innings before giving way to junior-college transfer Knab, who quickly induced three ground-outs to reserve shortstop DC Arendas to officially put USC's first no-hitter in 38 years in the books.

USC finished with 15 hits, three by Vergason (three RBIs) and Tanner English (double, two runs scored) and two each by Schrock, the hot-hitting LB Dantzler (a .500 batting average in first five games) and Connor Bright, who made his first start of the season.

The Gamecocks sent 14 hitters to the plate in the decisive fifth. After Schrock gave USC a 3-1 lead, an RBI groundout by Joey Pankake and run-scoring singles by Dantzler, Bright, Dante Rosenberg and Graham Saiko (a two-run single) completed the carnage against three Albany pitchers.

Vergason doubled home two runs in the sixth and Dantzler blasted a three-run homer in the seventh to give USC a 14-1 lead.

The early going featured dominant pitching by Holmes and Albany's Derek Zielinski, a transfer from small-college powerhouse LeMoyne. Holmes retired the first six Great Dane batters without the ball leaving the infield.

Zielinski easily set down the first four Gamecocks batters until issuing a one-out walk to Grayson Greiner. Moments later, Bright took advantage of his first start of the season by scorching a double down the left-field line, with Greiner sliding head-first into third.

However, the Gamecocks saw the scoring opportunity slip into oblivion as inning-ending groundouts by Vergason and Dante Rosenberg failed to move the runners.

A key two-base throwing error by Vergason opened the door for Albany to finally snap the scoreless tie with a run in the top of the fourth.

When a walk and Vergason's miscue put runners at second and third with no outs, Holmes fanned his second Albany batter. But the next hitter lofted a fly to right deep enough to score the runner from third, giving the Great Danes a 1-0 lead.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Even though USC battered Albany pitching in the middle and late innings, Holmes was dominant in his six innings with no hits (obviously) and three strikeouts.

KEY MOMENT: USC has four singles and a walk after two were out in the bottom of the fifth to push the lead to 9-1.

TURNING POINT: Vergason's solo homer leading off the bottom of the fifth swung the momentum in USC's favor and the Gamecocks never lost a grip on it the rest of the way.

HOW THE RUNS SCORED
ALB 4th - Gaige walked, Madej reached second on throwing error (E5), Hoagboon struckout, Nethaway hit sacrifice fly to right (RBI), Tracy struckout (2-3). ONE RUN, NO HITS (ALB 1-0).

USC 5TH - Vergason homered to right (RBI), Rosenberg walked, English singled to first (bunt) and Rosenberg advanced to third on throwing error (E4), Saiko walked, Schrock singled to center (2 RBI), Saiko stole third and Schrock stole second, Pankake grounded to short (RBI), Dantzler singled to left (RBI) and advanced to second on fielding error (E7), Greiner grounded to pitcher, Bright singled to left field (RBI), Vergason singled to right, Rosenberg singled to right (RBI), English walked, Saiko singled to center (2 RBI), Schrock fouled to pitcher. NINE RUNS, EIGHT HITS (USC 9-1).

USC 6th - Pankake singled to left, Dantzler walked, Greiner grounded to first, Bright lined to second, Vergason doubled to right (2 RBI), Rosenberg struckout. TWO RUNS, TWO HITS (USC 11-1).

USC 7th - English doubled to right-center, Saiko struckout, Schrock doubled to right-center, Carson struckout, Dantzler homered to right (3 RBI), Greiner flied to right. THREE RUNS, THREE HITS (USC 14-1).

Box score



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