It was a two-headed freshman monster on the mound for No. 2 South Carolina Tuesday night, and the result was encouraging.
With Taylor Widener making his first start of his career and Josh Reagan throwing a strong four innings in relief, the Gamecocks got seven innings of three-hit, one-run baseball as USC built a four-run lead through two innings and kept the College of Charleston from threatening the rest of the way in a 4-2 win.
"I don't think Taylor had a great first inning; he was a little bit maybe too excited, then he settled in," USC head coach Chad Holbrook said.
He'll get no argument from Widener.
"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff," said Widener, who allowed one hit in three innings while striking out two and walking one.
Holbrook said he continues to be impressed with Reagan.
"Josh is just a good pitcher," Holbrook said. "He can change speeds, in and out, uses his fastball, can throw 82 miles an hour and he can pitch in because his changeup is so good. He's tough. I thought he pitched very well."
Sophomore Vince Fiori saw spot duty, coming in for Reagan in the eighth and getting two outs without surrendering a hit before being relived himself.
"Vince, it was encouraging to get him out there," Holbrook said. "He hasn't been out there enough and he deserves to be out there more, we just haven't had the right spots to put him there. We're very comfortable putting Vince in some tight situations."
The only pitcher who appeared shaky Tuesday was the one with the best line of nearly any pitcher this year - Cody Mincey. Brought on to relieve Fiori with one out in the eighth, Mincy walked two batters and allowed an RBI single for his first run of the season over a team-high 13 appearances.
"Cody, we have the utmost confidence in him, I don't think he was his normal self tonight," Holbrook said. "I don't think he was as sharp tonight as he usually is, but he was good enough.
"He wasn't the Cody we'd seen previously, and it was to be expected. Heck, the kid isn't a machine. He's not perfect. But our bullpen has been awfully solid and consistent for us all year long."
HOT PANKAKE: However you stack it, Joey Pankake is hot. After starting the season slowly, Pankake has warmed up once SEC play has begun. Pankake homered twice against Kentucky this past weekend and has a team-high .407 average in SEC games.
Against the College of Charleston, Pankake picked up where he left off. Sporting a .307 average coming into the game, Pankake's 3-for-4 night on Tuesday raised his average to .329, and his three RBI tied his season-high he achieved Sunday in Lexington.
Yeah, he's feeling it.
"I've been seeing it really well," Pankake said. "I've been in the cages with coach (Brian) Buscher a lot working on my approach.
"I shortened up my swing a little bit. I never did panic. I knew I'd get mine. It's a long season."
GREINER ACHING: Holbrook admitted he was "very concerned" about Grayson Greiner's thumb. He characterized the injury as "catcher's thumb" and said it's the result of catching different styles of pitches such as sinkers that require you to turn your hand over and expose the meat of your thumb to the pitch over and over.
"It's probably a day-to-day thing for the next week or so," Holbrook said. "It's like a bone bruise. It's very painful and hurts when you swing the bat."
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