If freshmen Jordan Gore, Gene Cone and Wil Crowe felt any pressure in Sunday's rubber game at Vanderbilt, they didn't show it by their performance on the field.
Gore reached base five times, going 2-for-2 with two singles, two walks and a sacrifice/throwing error, while right fielder Cone was 1-for-2, sacrificed twice, scored a run and walked once.
"The guys that hadn't played a lot and hadn't played every day, they played their hearts out and did everything we asked them to do," USC coach Chad Holbrook said after Sunday's 6-3 victory. "We took a lot of pitches. I've probably given more take signs in these last three games than in my whole coaching career combined. But they were all about winning and executed."
Not to be outdone, Crowe, a right-hander, faced just three batters over the minimum in seven-plus innings, allowing four hits and three runs with nine strikeouts, matching his career high, and zero walks.
Crowe, pitching in his home state of Tennessee for the first time, did not allow a Vanderbilt baserunner in six of the seven full innings (he faced one batter in the bottom of the eighth) en route to his seventh win of the season, tying him with Jordan Montgomery (7-4) and Jack Wynkoop for the team high in victories.
For the second straight start, Crowe yielded four hits and three or fewer runs in seven innings of work. Two weekends ago, he limited Missouri to four hits and one run in 7.0 innings.
"He pitched well enough to win last week against Missouri," Holbrook said. "Coach (Jerry) Meyers tweaked his delivery a little bit. It probably wasn't noticeable to the common observer, but he was more on top of the ball and he's down at the knees (with his pitches). He was getting himself in trouble in his previous starts when the ball was up.
"But he has gotten out over his front knee and the ball is going downhill. His breaking ball was the best it has been all year. That was evidenced by his nine strikeouts. He had a power breaking ball going (Saturday) and it was great to see."
As the No. 4 seed, USC opens SEC Tournament play Wednesday night (30 minutes following conclusion of 5:30 p.m. game) against the winner of Tuesday's Mississippi State-Georgia single elimination contest. USC is seeded fourth in the conference tourney for the second straight year.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jordan Gore
LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 3-1 (2-1 SEC)
OVERALL RECORD: 42-14 (18-12 SEC)
NATIONAL RANKINGS: No. 8 in NCAA Baseball RPI, No. 15 in Baseball America, No. 15 in Collegiate Baseball, No. 12 in Perfect Game USA.
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:
May 13 v. The Citadel, W 10-1
May 15 at Vanderbilt, W 4-3 (10 Inn.)
May 16 at Vanderbilt, L 9-3
May 17 at Vanderbilt, W 6-3
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE:
May 21 vs. Mississippi State or Georgia, TBD (SEC Tourney)
May 22 at SEC Tourney (Time TBD)
(All Times Eastern)
-- Holbrook said on Monday during a teleconference with reporters that Montgomery would probably start Wednesday's SEC Tournament opener on five days rest, but Reed Scott could get the call if the lefthander from Sumter wasn't feeling fresh and ready.
-- After initially saying Connor Bright and Max Schrock were unlikely to play before the NCAA Tournament, Holbrook said Monday that USC "would play it by ear" regarding the status of Bright and Schrock. Holbrook said Bright practiced on Monday before the team's departure for Hoover (Ala.), but that Schrock was held out. It could be a game time decision for both players. "I'd like to get Connor in there at the SEC Tournament just so I can get him some live at-bats before the NCAA Tournament," Holbrook said. "I'll make that decision Wednesday based on how they're feeling."
-- Holbrook on USC rising to No. 8 in the NCAA Baseball RPI: "Our team has done everything it could possibly do under the circumstances to put ourselves in position to be a national seed. I think we're deserving. But we have important games to play and work to do before that final decision is made."
-- USC won 18 or more SEC games for the fourth time in five seasons. Over that span, the Gamecocks are 113-65 (.635) against conference foes during the regular season.
-- USC has finished in the top three places of the SEC Eastern Division in 18 of 23 seasons since joining the league. USC was 8-7 in the first half of the SEC schedule, 10-5 in the second half.
-- USC has won 40 or more games for 15 straight seasons, the longest current streak among the 14 league schools. USC's 42 victories heading into the SEC Tournament are the most in the conference.
-- Junior third baseman Joey Pankake hit .417 (5-for-12) in the Vanderbilt series, including the game-winning homer in the 10th inning of Thursday's 4-3 win and two hits and two RBI in Saturday's 6-3 victory. Pankake has 199 career hits, putting him one shy of becoming the 26th player in school history to tally 200 or more career hits.
-- Grayson Greiner is third in the SEC with 50 RBI. He also leads USC in doubles (12), on-base percentage (.406) and slugging percentage (.521).
-- USC is 29-1 when leading after six innings and 34-1 when leading after eight innings, testaments to the stellar Gamecocks' bullpen in 2014. So far, the USC bullpen is 19-1 with a 1.06 ERA in 203.1 innings pitched this year with 206 strikeouts and 67 walks. Opponents are batting only .189 against the relievers.
-- USC is 35-7 when it commits one or fewer errors in a game. Moreover, the Gamecocks have allowed three runs or less in 41 of 56 games this year with a 38-3 record in those contests.
USC OFFENSIVE STATISTICAL LEADERS:
Batting Average: Connor Bright (.336)
At-bats: Kyle Martin (221)
Runs: Joey Pankake (48)
Hits: Kyle Martin (74)
Doubles: Grayson Greiner (12)
Triples: Four with 1
Home Runs: Grayson Greiner (8)
RBI: Grayson Greiner (50)
Total Bases: Grayson Greiner (100)
Slugging Pct: Grayson Greiner (.521)
Walks: Joey Pankake (27)
On-Base Pct: Grayson Greiner (.406)
Stolen Bases: Tanner English (17).
FINAL SEC EAST STANDINGS: Florida 21-9, USC 18-12, Vanderbilt 17-13, Kentucky 14-16, Tennessee 12-18, Georgia 11-18-1, Missouri 6-24.
FINAL SEC LADDER:
1. Florida 21-9 (SEC East winner)
2. Ole Miss 19-11 (SEC West winner)
3. LSU 17-11-1
4. USC 18-12 (Wins tiebreaker over Mississippi State)
5. Mississippi State 18-12
6. Vanderbilt 17-13
7. Arkansas 16-14
8. Alabama 15-14
9. Kentucky 14-16 (Won series vs. Texas A&M)
10. Texas A&M 14-16
11. Tennessee 12-18
12. Georgia 11-18-1
13. Auburn 10-20*
14. Missouri 6-24*
* Eliminated from SEC Tournament consideration.
SEC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (First 2 days)
Tuesday, May 20:
Game 1 - #6 Vanderbilt vs. #11 Tennessee - 10:30 a.m.
Game 2 - #7 Arkansas vs. #10 Texas A&M - TBD
Game 3 - #8 Alabama vs. #9 Kentucky - 5:30 p.m.
Game 4 - #5 Mississippi State vs. #12 Georgia - TBD
Wednesday, May 21:
Game 5 - #3 LSU vs. Winner Game 1 - 10:30 a.m.
Game 6 - #2 Ole Miss vs. Winner Game 2 - TBD
Game 7 - #1 Florida vs. Winner Game 3 - 5:30 p.m.
Game 8 - #4 South Carolina vs. Winner Game 4 - TBD
(All Times Eastern)
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