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March 25, 2014

Gamecocks defeat CofC 4-2

On a windy night when the temperature dropped into the upper 30s aftter the sun went down, No. 2 South Carolina got four runs early and held on to defeat the College of Charleston, 4-2, at Carolina Stadium.

A brisk 50 degrees at first pitch, the Gamecocks (20-3) struck early with two in the first while the sun was still on the field. Hitting in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, Tanner English doubled down the left field line and came in on an RBI-single from Joey Pankake, who extended his team-high hitting streak to 11 games.

Pankake would move to third on a single to right field from Kyle Martin then score on Elliott Caldwell's RBI-single through the box to give USC a 2-0 lead after one.

Pankake hurt the Cougars again in the second. With runners at second and third with one out, DC Arendas struck out for the second consecutive inning, leaving it up to Pankake to deliver with two down. That's just what he did, driving a double to the wall in left center field to score Gene Cone and Marcus Mooney and give USC a 4-0 lead it would never lose.

Pankake finished the game 3-for-4 with 3 RBI, tying a season-high also matched Sunday against Kentucky.

"I think he's gotten comfortable, a little bit more confident," USC coach Chad Holbrook said of Pankake. "He's just getting some good swings. He's not putting too much pressure on himself.

"It's good to see. If we get Joey going offensively, it makes us a different team offensively. I think we're a little bit more formidable when our three-hole hitter is hitting like a three-hole hitter."

South Carolina played without pre-season All-American Grayson Greiner, who has what Holbrook calls a "catcher's thumb" on his left hand that bothers him when he swings the bat. Holbrook said he was "very concerned" about Greiner's injury and that it could keep him out of the lineup not only tomorrow night against Coastal Carolina but possibly for the weekend series with Tennessee. USC also played without second baseman Max Schrock, whose sprained ankle continues to heal slower than the staff or Schrock would like.

"We weren't necessarily full strength tonight without Grayson and Max, but our kids showed up with determination to win anyway and they did and I'm proud of them," Holbrook said.

Getting the job done on the mound Tuesday was freshman Taylor Widener, who pitched three innings and allowed a single hit and no runs, and fellow freshman Josh Reagan (W, 3-0), who threw four innings and allowed two hits and an unearned run.

After allowing a walk to the first batter of the game. Widener sat down eight straight until a single on the 11th pitch of at-bat in the third. Lifted because of a predetermined pitch count, Reagan relieved him to start the fourth and promptly retired the first eight batters he faced.

"Our pitching again was pretty darn good," Holbrook said. "Taylor and Josh really kind of set the tone for us."

On a night so cold, Holbrook said it was difficult to do anything baseball-related.

"It wasn't easy to hit," Holbrook said. "It wasn't easy to play. It wasn't easy to pitch.

"It was tough out there. I don't know what the wind chill was, but man, I couldn't wait to get that 27th out. It was cold, about the coldest I've been in my six years here.

"It wasn't easy to play out there tonight, but our guys hung in there pretty good. We did enough."

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