Gamecocks take game two, 2-1

Sophomore Tyler Webb pitched 6 innings of one-run baseball and picked up the win as Adrian Morales' sixth-inning sacrifice fly gave the Gamecocks a 2-1 victory over Santa Clara in game two of the opening-weekend series Saturday. Webb picked up the win as Matt Price earned the save, and the Gamecocks moved to 2-0 on the season. Game three is set for 1:30 Sunday.

South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner warned all offseason that the new composite bats required by the NCAA would lead to far less scoring in college baseball. But game one of the series may have left followers of the sport believing all the controversy around the new bats was unjust when the teams combined for 19 runs and 23 hits.

Saturday night's match-up between the two teams, which featured a combined three runs and 13 hits, was much more like what Tanner expected with the new regulations.

"Today you saw a little bit different game," Tanner said comparing it to Friday's game. "I think that you're going to see some bunts, you're going to see some steals, some hit-and-runs, you're going to see some things. Guys are going to get picked off, because you're going to try to force the action a little bit. The ball just doesn't fly."

That was very clear early on as the Gamecocks got picked off from first twice and were also caught stealing once.

It was also clear as Santa Clara used small ball and a passed ball to scratch across an early run and take a 1-0 lead in the first.

"We had five or six situations that I wish we hadn't of made, some mental mistakes, not so much physical but we were able to win," Tanner said.

Webb, whose one run was unearned, struggled some with his control in the first two innings but settled down to retire the final 12 batters he faced before giving way to Bryan Harper and Matt Price. Webb struck out four batters and walked two while throwing 78 pitches.

"I struggled a little early trying to find the strike zone," Webb said. "In the later innings I really settled in and got more comfortable. I am not sure what happened but I was able to get comfortable and find the zone and that helped."

"His hangeup improved as we got deeper into the game and I thought that made a difference," Tanner said. "I gave him an opportunity to stay out there when his changeup started to improve. His breaking ball was so-so today and his fastball was okay. He got behind a few batters early, but he had twelve in a row at one point so I think he threw well. We're happy to win close games."

The miscues on the base paths played a big part in an inability to score in the first four innings. But the Gamecocks finally broke through and tied the game in the fifth.

Catcher Dante Rosenberg, who made his first start as a Gamecock, snuck a ground ball in-between shortstop and third to score Adrian Morales, who was beat by the throw but avoided the tag. Morales credited Scott Wingo, who was on deck, with directing him away from the tag.

Morales wasn't done yet.

In the very next inning, with runners on the corners, Morales powered a deep fly ball to left field that was caught on the warning track but allowed Christian Walker to score.

Seven of nine Gamecock starters had at least one hit with Walker 2-for-4

Lefty Brian Harper made his South Carolina debut in the seventh and pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless ball while striking out two. Matt Price came on in with two outs in the eighth and then worked a hit-less ninth to earn the save.

"It is beneficial," Morales said of winning a close game early in the season. "We are still not where we want to be at because we were very sloppy early. But it was still a grind it out win. Our bullpen performed well and we went out and got the win."

Rosenberg left the game in the seventh as a precaution because his back stiffened up, an issue that Tanner says the team is going to have to deal with from time to time.

South Carolina will go for the sweep Sunday at 1:30 as Adam Westmoreland returns to the starting rotation after missing all of last season with an injury.

"Well it is important for us," Tanner said of his return. When Nolan Belcher got hurt, Adam Westmoreland got magnified a little bit more. He has worked awfully hard to be where he is. His body is in great shape and he is throwing the ball really well. I think his velocity will get better as we go. He has filled up the zone in the preseason. I know he is anxious to get back out there. Tomorrow, I hope he has a quality start but regardless of that it will be good to see him out there."

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