Two key bunts led to four big runs and another gem from Jordan Montgomery sparked No. 5 South Carolina past No. 15 Florida 4-1 Friday night in the opening game of the SEC series in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium.
The win moves the Gamecocks (28-5, 8-5) into sole possession of first place in the SEC East. Florida falls to 21-13, 7-6 in the SEC. The second game of the series starts 4 p.m. Saturday.
Trailing 1-0 going into the bottom of the fifth against Florida freshman starter Logan Shore (L, 3-2), USC broke through with some solid at-bats and a little two-out magic. A Brison Celek groundout to third started the inning off poorly, but DC Arendas drew a seven-pitch walk after getting down 1-2 and then took second on a single to left from Tanner English.
With two on and one out, Joey Pankake hit a nubber back to Shore that he fielded cleanly and turned to second to get English. Shore's throw was on target but not in time to nab the speedy English, loading the bases with one away for Marcus Mooney. Mooney executed a suicide squeeze to perfection, scoring Arendas to tie the game and record the Gamecocks' first run against SEC pitching in 19 innings.
Tied at one with two out and runners at second and third, Grayson Greiner got down 1-2 before drilling a single to right center that scored two runs without a throw home to give USC and Montgomery a 3-1 lead.
"I was wanting to get it to 1-1 and move to another frame there," Holbrook said of the squeeze call. "We didn't put the squeeze on to have a three-run inning.
"We needed to tie the game. I thought when we were down 1-0 there was some anxiety in our dugout. Our players were a little bit edgy. I thought maybe if we tied the game up they could take a deep breath and start playing baseball."
Greiner said his approach changed once the count went 1-2.
"I always change my approach with two strikes," said Greiner, who went 1-for-3 with 2 RBI. "Early in the count, you try to get your hacks in and try to drive the ball, but once you get two strikes you have to battle and do anything you can to not strike out and make something happen to try and put pressure on the defense."
"I was just trying to hit a ground ball, something up the middle. I got a slider away from me and I was able to get just enough on it to get it in the gap and score those two runs."
The support was all Montgomery (W, 5-2) would need as he threw seven complete innings, allowing just one run on seven hits while striking out eight and walking one.
"The way he's throwing right now is the Jordan Montgomery we've always known," Greiner said. "He had a couple outings there where he wasn't himself, but we always knew he was our Friday night guy, he's our ace. Now he's found his changeup again, and that's always been his go-to pitch.
"He's locating his fastball well, he piled up a good amount of strikeouts tonight. We got exactly what we needed out of Jordan to get a big win on Friday night against one of the best teams in the SEC."
The Gamecocks stretched their lead to 4-1 in the eighth with a lead-off double from Mooney, sacrifice bunt from Greiner and single from Kyle Martin in the eighth to provide some breathing room for Seddon, who wiggled off a two-on, no-out hook left him by Cody Mincey in the top of the eighth with a flyout to center and inning-ending double play then cruised through the ninth to earn his team-high ninth save of the year.
"It was a big win for our team," Holbrook said. "I thought Jordan Montgomery was terrific once again.
"I thought he was pretty much the difference in the game in regards to our team. We capitalized on our scoring opportunities. I said (Thursday) I didn't think we'd have many scoring opportunities against their pitching staff and we didn't, but the ones we did have we capitalized on.
"We pitched, played defense and had timely hitting. That's a good recipe for a win and that's what we got tonight."
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