You might have thought Oprah was in Columbia tonight, as hits and RBI were being handed out to everyone. She wasn’t actually there (as far as I know…), but it was still a good night to be a Gamecock, as the guys in garnet topped the Flames 19-3 tonight at Carolina Stadium. I hope they saved some runs for tomorrow.
Back to tonight: USC got out to an early lead, putting up three runs in the first inning. Chase Vergason singled with one out, then Joey Pankake reached first on a fielder’s choice and Vergason made it to second when pitcher Brooks Roy made a throwing error.
LB Dantzler walked to fill the bases with Cocks and Grayson Greiner hit into a fielder’s choice to keep the bases loaded, but Vergason was out at home. Kyle Martin, Graham Saiko, and Connor Bright then took back-to-back-to-back walks to bring in all three runs and end Roy’s night very early.
The third inning saw Carolina pad their lead. Greiner led off with a base hit, which Martin followed with a single of his own. Saiko laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners, and Bright came through with a two-RBI single to make it 5-0. Next, Tanner English launched his first career home run, which was a two-run shot that put the Yardcocks up 7-0.
South Carolina added two more runs in the fifth. Bright knocked a one-out base hit, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. It was then Max Schrock’s turn to leave the yard, as he hit a long ball, making it 9-0 in favor of the Gamecocks. They hit double digits in the sixth inning, when Saiko hit a sac fly to bring Dantzler across the dish.
The 10-0 lead was impressive enough, but the Cocks almost doubled their run total in the eighth innings, when things got really brutal for Liberty. With one out, Martin and Sean Sullivan singled, then pinch-hitter T.J. Costen doubled to get Martin in. English knocked a base hit to bring Sullivan across the plate and give USC a dozen runs.
With two outs, Vergason reached first on a fielder’s choice and Costen scored thanks to an error. Pankake worked a walk and pinch-hitter Brison Celek singled, then made it to second as two more runs came in courtesy of another error. That put the Cocks up 15-0 and they still weren’t done. Dante Rosenberg knocked a RBI base hit, then Martin homered, bringing in three runs and making it 19-0.
The Flames got all of their runs in the ninth, when Justin Sizemore hit a three-run shot to get his team on the board. That was all the rallying they could manage, though.
Yardcocks starter Jordan Montgomery was dealing tonight, as he worked seven innings and allowed just three hits, hit one batter, and struck out 11, a career high. He earned the win and improves to 5-1. He and Nolan Belcher, yesterday’s starter, combined to issue no walks and strike out 17 total batters. That’s impressive.
Vince Fiori, Forrest Koumas, and Patrick Sullivan pitched the rest of the game. Koumas surrendered the three runs in the ninth, and gave up two hits, walked two batters, and had a wild pitch. Fiori allowed one hit and he and Sullivan each tallied a K.
Flames starter Roy had a rough night, as he didn’t even make it out of the first inning. He surrendered one hit, three runs, and issued four walks. He took the loss and drops to 7-6. Liberty used six other pitchers in the game.
Eleven Carolina players had at least one hit, and Martin and English each had three hits to lead the team, while Sizemore had two to lead the Flames.
The Gamecocks improve to 41-18 and have now won 26 straight games at home in the postseason. They also set a school record for runs in an NCAA Tournament game. South Carolina will play the winner of tomorrow’s elimination game between Clemson and Liberty at 7 p.m. The game will be shown on ESPNU/ESPN3 and Jack Wynkoop will start on the mound for the Cocks.