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March 11, 2014

No. 1 USC downs Furman 5-0

A record that took 42 years to match took two weeks to equal.

After breaking the 1972 record of four shutouts in a row with five earlier this season, the Gamecocks wasted no time matching the old record, recording their fourth consecutive shutout of the season for the second time this year in a 5-0 win over Furman on Tuesday night at Carolina Stadium.

Tuesday's shutout gave the Gamecocks nine on the season - one more than the 2013 team recorded all season. The win also stretched both the nation's longest home winning streak to 22 and scoreless inning streak by the bullpen to 47.2 innings going back to the first game of the season.

"We pitched and played defense like we've done all season long," said Holbrook, whose Gamecocks improved to 16-0 in the year. Furman fell to 6-10. "I was very, very pleased with the way we swung the bats, too. We didn't really have much to show for it in the hit column, but we squared a lot of balls up and hit some balls extremely hard. All in all it was a great day for our program."

Six Gamecock pitchers combined to allow just five hits, with Taylor Widener (W, 1-0) getting his first career win in a predetermined split. The freshman right-hander has yet to allow a run this season and gave up just one hit in 3.1 innings while walking two to increase his scoreless inning streak on the year to 7.1.

"I feel like I didn't have great control of everything, but I was getting ground balls and my players were making plays," Widener said. "And my offense scored runs for me, too."

Offensively, the Gamecocks scored all five runs with two outs, led by Elliott Caldwell, who was 3-for-4 with 2 RBI. Scoring runs with two outs has become a bit of a habit lately for South Carolina, which is an encouraging sign for Holbrook.

"I think back to 2010, 2011 and that's what we were good at then," Holbrook said. "We would manufacture things with two outs. Innings are never over; we talk about that all the time with our players.

"Just because there are two out with nobody on doesn't mean we can't score. I think that comes with some maturity. It's an older group.

"Our older guys, they know how to play. They don't take themselves too seriously, they don't get down when things aren't going well. You don't see any temper tantrums in the dugout, and that's been known to happen a time or two around here.

"They've been an even-keeled group, and maybe that plays a part in that two-out rally stuff. We're going to need some two-out hits to win games in our league, I can assure you of that."

South Carolina got its first run across in the first inning on a single to right from Connor Bright and walk to Grayson Greiner that put runners at first and second with two down. After getting down 1-2 and fouling one off his ankle, Caldwell stepped out of the box and walked around home plate, adjusting his gloves and collecting himself, then stepped in and smashed a single to center field that drove in Bright but got Greiner thrown out at third to end the inning.

"My ankle was hurting really bad so I was trying to walk that off," Caldwell said. "I knew it was two strikes and I had to battle because there were runners in scoring position. I wanted to hit it so they could come home."

South Carolina pushed two more two-out runs across in the bottom of the second. After a leadoff strikeout from Brison Celek, DC Arendas walked and moved to second on an errant pickoff attempt from starter Billy Greenfield. Jordan Gore grounded out, but Tanner English followed with his 13th RBI of the season with a single down the right field line. Marcus Mooney then reached on an error by the third baseman on a sharp grounder, the second Paladin error of the inning, and came around to score on a double to left from Bright that claimed Mooney at home on a strong from from the left fielder.

The Gamecocks added a fourth run in the eighth - again with two outs. After Bright and Martin flew out to start the inning, Greiner stroked a double to left center and then came around to score on Caldwell's single up the middle.

USC's fifth run of the game came on a two-out homer from Martin in the seventh, his third of the year.

"We've played 16 games and a pretty clean brand of baseball," Holbrook said. "We've played good, clean baseball. We've pitched and played defense and we've done OK swinging the bats, too.

"I think we're prepared, but that doesn't guarantee anything come Friday. We're as prepared as we can be. We've played well."

Note: Holbrook said Joey Pankake (hamstring) could have played today if needed and will play Friday barring something unusual happening between now and then. He said Max Schrock (ankle) was more doubtful and listed him at 50-50 for Friday, noting that his ankle was more sore today (Tuesday) than it was Monday.

Up next: No. 1 South Carolina hosts No. 21 Ole Miss Friday night at 7 p.m.

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