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February 26, 2013

USC-Furman Diamond Extra

VIDEO: Max Shrock

Welcome back, Evan Beal.

South Carolina's sophomore reliever, expected to play a huge part for the 2013 Gamecocks, had struggled throughout fall practice and the preseason. Coach Chad Holbrook, after one particularly poor showing, tersely said that Beal had the talent to pitch, and if he showed it, he would pitch. If not, he wouldn't.

He was going to be given his chances, but with the arms around him in the bullpen, it was understood that the chances might someday run out if Beal didn't show what he had. After an OK outing against Liberty - Beal struck out two and didn't give up a run, but also yielded three hits in an inning - he got the call on Tuesday.

Time to show up. So he did.

The sophomore threw 2 2-3 innings of spotless relief, striking out three and not allowing a baserunner as he held Furman at bay. The Gamecocks were leading 3-0 at the time but starter Jack Wynkoop had two runners in scoring position with one out in the sixth inning, so Beal came trotting in.

He worked a full count to three-hole hitter Taylor Johnson, then whipped a fastball on the outside black to ring him up. Then Beal got a fly-out to center to end the threat, and sat down his next six batters in order.

Beal would have gotten the save had he finished, but ahead 5-0, USC gave Joel Seddon an opportunity. Seddon gave up three straight hits and the Gamecocks had to go to closer Tyler Webb, who recorded his third save.

Still, it was excellent to see Beal assert himself. He'll factor in a lot of games this year.

"I think in the fall, I was thinking a little too much, pressing, trying to reach outside my limits a little," Beal said. "Tonight, I talked to coach a little bit about it, I just tried slowing my thoughts down, to trust my stuff really. Let my stuff do its thing, and not pressure myself to throw outside my limits."

"It's very encouraging," Holbrook said. "It makes me feel a lot better about our bullpen. He's got great stuff, you can't ignore it. We don't have any problem putting him in to get a big out in a big situation. We like the fact that we got Tyler and Evan and some other guys."

Beal was thought to be a candidate for closer in the preseason, although Webb moved into that role when Beal struggled. It was seen then as a stop-gap until Beal or Forrest Koumas got it together; but now Webb has three saves and hasn't given up a run in four appearances.

It's not a competition, Beal said. He's happy with whatever.

"I don't really mind as long as I'm getting some good innings out there," Beal said. "With Webb out there doing a real good job, maybe that's the spot I need to be in. He's a veteran guy and he's got real good experience. We're just going out and showing coach how versatile we really are. One thing we kind of strive for on the pitching staff is versatility."

NO JOE: With Joey Pankake missing Tuesday's game due to a pulled hip flexor, Holbrook shook up the lineup. Despite freshman DC Arendas playing a solid shortstop during his early career, Holbrook went in favor of more offense.

Max Schrock moved to short while Connor Bright (.333) started at second base. Tanner English moved back to the leadoff spot. Graham Saiko, who had batted leadoff for the past five games, moved into Pankake's third spot in the order.

"Coach texted me today and said, 'You're going to need to pick up Joey today,'" Schrock said. "I'll play wherever they need me to play. I feel like I can play just as good at short as I can at second."

Arendas played the final five innings at short as Bright sat and Schrock moved to second base. Pankake should be ready for the Clemson series this weekend.

"I was this close, this close to playing him," Holbrook said, holding his finger and thumb an inch apart. "If this was an SEC game or a regional game … he about talked me into it. I just felt, damp, cold, wet field. It was sore. I just felt like the last second, it was the smart thing for Joey and our team going forward.

"I'm fully expecting him to play on Friday."

FRESH FACE: Freshman southpaw Jack Wynkoop started his first collegiate game and earned the win, throwing 5 1-3 innings of shutout ball and striking out two. He only needed 55 pitches to get through the frames, although he scattered five hits.

A candidate for a weekend rotation role in the preseason, Wynkoop was edged by Nolan Belcher for the Sunday spot and walked the only batter he faced against Liberty. Against Furman, Wynkoop went 17 batters before he faced a three-ball count, and struck that guy out.

"The breaker was working good," Wynkoop said. "The older guys are doing a real good job of kind of messing with me. Maybe it was a little more loose today than normal."

"He wants to make an impact here," Holbrook said. "He's got the right kind of makeup. I think our fans are going to enjoy watching him throw the next three years."

GETTING IT TOGETHER: Chase Vergason booted a ball last week, a miscue that had Holbrook nearly ready to bench him, until he led off an inning with a home run. Against the Paladins, Vergason had two diving stops at third base, each time rising and recording the out.

"Chase Vergason was special at third base," Holbrook said.

THAT'S ONE WAY TO DO IT: LB Dantzler, reigning SEC Player of the Week and wielding a scorching piece of lumber, was plunked in each of his first two at-bats. Dantzler reached base four times, also walking and hitting a single, but struck out in his final attempt.

The call, which the fans at Carolina Stadium lustily booed, came at the end of a 14-pitch at-bat.

NOT TOO SHABBY: Despite Seddon being roughed up, USC continued a stellar streak. In two games, the Gamecocks' pitching staff has struck out 19 and walked none.

South Carolina 5, Furman 2
Mississippi State 13, Rhode Island 2
Alabama 5, Samford 4
Kennesaw State 9, Auburn 2
North Florida 7, Florida 6
Georgia State 10, Georgia 7
Kentucky 11, Murray State 4
LSU 11, Louisiana-Lafayette 2
Memphis 4, Ole Miss 3
Tennessee 9, East Tennessee State 7
Texas A&M 9, Northwestern State 5
Vanderbilt 7, Arkansas State 3

Box score

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