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May 11, 2013

Montgomery slams door on Bulldogs

VIDEO: Jordan Montgomery

A day after getting dominated by Nolan Belcher, Georgia learned how dominating South Carolina's No. 2 pitcher can be.

Coming off his first loss of the year against Vanderbilt in which he admittedly didn't have his best stuff, sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery responded with a gem, no-hitting the Bulldogs through 6 1-3 innings and allowing just two hits and one run over seven innings in USC's 7-1 win in front of a sellout crowd at Carolina Stadium on Saturday.

What's even more impressive than his line is the fact that, according to his coach, he didn't have his best stuff.

"I don't think Jordan was his best today," said Chad Holbrook, whose team clinched the series win over the Bulldogs and improved to 36-14, 15-10 SEC. "His line is pretty good, but I didn't feel he was hitting all his spots. He's got such great command, you can usually catch him with tweezers, his ball doesn't move that much.

"But he certainly did well enough to keep them at bay and made some big pitches when he had to. Jordan's an unflappable kid; he's a cool customer. Even when he's not pitching as well as he's capable of, he has a knack for keeping you in the game. As good as he was, he can be even better."

Ever the soft-spoken interview after a game, Montgomery shrugged off questions about judging one performance against another.

"I felt about the same as last week," said Montgomery, whose ran his record to 4-1. "I had good stuff, I just made fewer errors."

As the game wore on and a no-hitter became a possibility, Montgomery said he tried to put it out of his mind.

"I was tying to not think about it," he said. "I didn't want to jinx it or anything."

On the hit that broke it up, a triple to the wall with one out in the seventh, Montgomery was equally curt.

"It was a hanging curveball, and he got the best of it," Montgomery said.

Facing Georgia's Blake Dietrich, making his first start of the year, the Gamecocks were patient at the plate and it paid off.

The Gamecocks broke through with some two-out clutch hitting in the second. After LB Dantzler and Grayson Greiner went quietly to open the inning, Max Schrock worked a walk to get aboard, bringing up Connor Bright.

Bright promptly slapped a double into the left-field corner past the diving third baseman, and as the ball bounced around by the wall, Schrock was able to score from first as he slid under the tag on a strong throw to make it 1-0 USC.

USC added another run in the bottom of the fourth. Facing an 0-2 count, leadoff man Joey Pankake, who went 2-for-4 on the day with an RBI, smashed a ball to dead center that kept going until it caromed off the bottom of the wall for a standup triple. After a strikeout from Dantzler, Greiner brought Pankake home with a sacrifice fly to short left field.

In the fifth, USC broke the game open for good, adding three runs on four consecutive two-out singles.

It started with no one on when TJ Costen lined a single to right, then moved to second on a bouncer through the box from Kyle Martin. Chase Vergason then tapped a dribbler by the pitcher, but beat the toss to first with a head-first slide. Seeing the close play at first, Costen raced around from second and was able to score before the first baseman could make a throw to give USC a 3-0 lead.

From there, Graham Saiko bounced a single through the box to put runners at first and second, and Pankake followed by spanking a sharp single into left that scored Saiko. Pankake over-ran the bag, however, and the throw from left caught him in a rundown between first and second.

Vergason, who had held at third, watched the back-and-forth rundown just long enough to bolt for home when he saw his chance, and he scored just seconds before Pankake finally was tagged to make it 5-0 Gamecocks.

For Holbrook, the smart base-running, the strong defense and the two-out hitting were takeaways that he feels good about heading into Sunday's series finale.

"We had some good base-running today, and that's not said often enough around here," Holbrook joked. "We've done some good things on the bases all year, and we've done some bad things, too. When you get a lead, you can push the envelope a little bit. You hate to run yourself out of an inning when you're tight or you're behind.

"As for Joey's play, it was a heady play. I don't think he meant to do it - he didn't mean to get too far off first base. That's not a thing we teach or coach. But once he got in the rundown, he did a terrific job. He had the presence of mind to stay in it as long as possible, and Chase had the presence of mind to go on a long throw from the first baseman to the middle infielder. Once we got in the rundown, we executed it perfectly. It was good to see."

The Bulldogs finally scratched out a run against Montgomery in the seventh. Having been no-hit through six innings, shortstop Kyle Farmer ripped a clean triple to left center field with one out, then scored a batter later on a sacrifice fly to left before Montgomery got a ground-out to end the inning.

Colby Holmes came on to throw the last two innings, allowing only one hit and no runs.

With the win, USC set up the chance at a possible sweep when the two SEC East rivals meet again at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday in the series finale.

"The thing about these two games is for 18 innings, we've put it all together," Holbrook said. "We've had some timely hitting, we had two-out hitting and we found ways to push runs across. We're certainly not an unbeatable team, but when we play that way, we'll be in our fair share of games."

Box score

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