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March 8, 2014

USC blanks Brown in Game 2

After blistering Brown for a season-high 18 hits and 13 runs in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader, No. 3 South Carolina found itself locked in a tight contest until a two-out, four-run eighth gave the Gamecocks some breathing room and comfortable 8-0 victory in Game 2 over Brown.

What was consistent all day Saturday was South Carolina's pitching. Jack Wynkoop (W, 4-0) was masterful, pitching eight scoreless innings while allowing just four hits - only two after the first inning - and striking out five while walking none.

Wynkoop faced the minimum number of batters in six of his first seven innings. In the eighth, he hit the first batter, allowed a single to the second to put runners on first and second with no outs and the buckled down to retire the next three on harmless fly outs.

Freshman Taylor Widener pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing two hits but striking out the side with a fastball in the low-90s. In 18 innings of action Saturday, USC didn't walk a batter, allow a run or commit an error.

"I'm very pleased with the way we played," Holbrook said. "Two very clean games, well-pitched and well-defended.

"Jack got in a rhythm there from about the third inning to the eighth that's about as good as he's thrown since he's been here. It was kind of fun to sit over there and watch him."

After stringing together five straight shutout victories earlier in the season, USC started a new streak of two more shutouts Saturday, meaning that half of South Carolina's 14 wins this season have been shutouts.

"We have some depth to our pitching staff," Holbrook said. "We have some pitchability. I don't think we blow people away with our velocity. We don't have the arm strength that a Vanderbilt has or maybe some other teams have. But we do have some pitchability. We can change speeds, we can locate our offspeed pitches.

"We have a balanced staff that is throwing the ball very well. We're not going to shut people out all yar long; that's not who we are. I think that we can keep people at bay, and hopefully the way we play defense find a way to win some games late once we get into SEC play."

Offensively, the Gamecocks (14-0) were helped by DC Arendas, who had 5 RBIs in Game 1. Scoreless through three, Arendas led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run to right field that went over and bounced back, making Arendas think he'd hit a double and stop at second before the umpire waved him around.

"I didn't think so (that it was out)," said Arendas, who finished the second game 2-for-4 after going 3-for-6 in Game 1. "I couldn't tell. I saw the ball kick back in, so I thought it was still in play. It was good to hear the umpire say 'You hit a home run.'"

The home run was Arendas' second of the season - one more than slugger Joey Pankake. Is Arendas ready to take on the mantle of slugger?

"Not at all," Arendas said. "I'm not a home-run hitter. I just try to go up there and have good at-bats and try to help our team win. You just try to focus on what you can do in that at-bat, whether it's moving the runner over or a sac fly to get an RBI in, that's what our goal is."

Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the fifth, shortstop Marcus Mooney hit a two-out, 2-RBI triple to push the lead to 3-0. In the bottom of the eighth Mooney struck again, hitting a two-out, 2-RBI double to finish with a career-high 4 RBIs in the game.

"DC and Marcus really played hard, played well" Holbrook said. "DC swung the bat like that all fall, all spring, and he carried that over.

"Some of his balls found some holes today. A couple of his flares dropped that weren't hit very hard and he hit a home run as well."

Three Gamecock htters had multiple-hit days - Mooney (2-for-5, 4 RBIs), Arendas and Grayson Greiner (2-for-4, double). Batting ninth, center fielder Tanner English went 1-for-2 with a 2-RBI single in the eighth.

Note: Joey Pankake tweaked his hamstring after doubling and scoring in the sixth inning and left the game. Holbrook said he would miss tomorrow's game as a precaution. Max Schrock, who rolled his ankle Wednesday against Stetson, also will miss tomorrow's game and likely Tuesday's game with Furman to be ready for Ole Miss next weekend.

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