Notebook: Gamecocks roll to 6-0

Three games, and three more wins for the South Carolina baseball team, which moved to 6-0 after completing a sweep against the Southern Illinois Salukis at Carolina Stadium this past weekend. The Gamecocks were once again led by strong starting pitching as well as the bat of Christian Walker and contributions from infielders Peter Mooney and Adrian Morales.

"I was extremely happy with our weekend and being able to win all six games that we have played against quality opponents," said Coach Ray Tanner after the series. "We knew that Santa Clara and Southern Illinois were very well coached teams. They have a lot of tough outs. They had some pitchers step up for them at the right time to keep them alive."

Walker stays hot at the plate

After an opening weekend in which he went 6-12, Walker promptly followed that up with a 6-11 weekend that saw him contribute three doubles, two runs batted in, and four runs scored. Last season, Walker struggled mightily in the second series against East Carolina, going 0-12 and watching as the Gamecocks fell in two out of three games.

But now batting .522 through two weekends and getting on base almost sixty percent of the time, the Gamecocks will definitely be looking for bigger and better things out of the sophomore first baseman. According to Walker, everything is coming together with great success for the Gamecocks right now, and not just when he is swinging his bat.

"It is great to have this momentum," said Walker. "In this game you need all of the momentum that you can get. We have to keep it rolling and keep the hits coming. Our pitchers are throwing great and our hitters are swinging the bats. Things are working out for us."

Walker has now hit safely in eleven straight games dating back to last year's College World Series run.

Webb, Roth move to 2-0

Over the course of seventeen appearances and seven starts in 2010, Tyler Webb picked up three wins and came in with an ERA of 3.96. But if his first two starts in 2011 are any indication, wins won't be a problem for Webb this year.

The 6'6'' lefthander moved to 2-0 on the young season after a 4-0 victory over Southern Illinois Saturday in which he threw a career high seven and one-third innings with seven strikeouts and just one walk. That followed up an excellent six inning outing in the first week in which he didn't allow an earned run in a 2-1 victory over Santa Clara.

"Pitching felt good, I just tried to get ahead with my fastball, work it in and out then later on in the game throw in my change up and get them a little off balance," said Webb. "Every week I'm trying to get better. I've been working on some stuff."

Webb said that the biggest difference between his freshman and sophomore seasons has been his mentality on the mound. His maturation as a pitcher has come from learning how to use his talents and concentrate on himself rather than what particular team he is facing.

"I think mechanically I'm a little more sound, my delivery is a lot better this year than it was last year. I don't get wrapped up as much as who we are playing this year as I did last year. And I just try and pound the zone with my fastball."

Webb has not allowed an earned run this season. Another pleasant surprise for South Carolina this season has been the pitching of new Friday night starter Michael Roth. The former reliever has so far cemented himself in his new spot, picking up victories in both of his starts as well.

Roth pitched six and two-thirds innings on Friday night, giving up just one earned run and easily defeating Southern Illinois starter Cameron Maldonado, who lasted just one inning and gave up nine earned runs. Although the game appeared to be in hand after Roth departed, the Salukis made a push with four runs over the final two innings before Matt Price came in to pick up his second save of the year and preserve the Gamecock win.

"I thought Michael Roth was really good," said Ray Tanner after Friday's game. "He gave us a quality start last week and another one today. I felt like he was much better today getting ahead in the count. From the offensive side, we had a really good first inning. We had some great at bats against a pretty good arm. We were able to hang on today. They came back at us and got a bunch of hits to put some pressure on us at the end."

Roth was also pleased with Friday's start and said that although the Gamecocks did jump out to a large lead, it did not change his approach to the hitters at all.

"It was nice to see the seven-run lead, but after every inning, Coach Tanner was in my ear telling me we had a one run lead. I don't change my mindset; I'm still trying to get every batter out."

Taylor comes through to complete the sweep

It wasn't just the usual suspects pitching well on the mound for Carolina this weekend, but more encouraging surprises continued with the performance of senior reliever John Taylor in Sunday's game. Taylor picked up his first win of the season in relief of Adam Westmoreland, who struggled a bit in giving up four runs in just over four innings of work.

While he did contribute twenty eight appearances last season, it appears that Taylor is up for an expanded role if he continues to build on this weekend's success. The seasoned lefty worked a career high two and two-thirds innings in relief of Adam Westmoreland and Steven Neff, striking out five batters in a scoreless appearance.

"We needed for him to be good today and he was," said Tanner. "Going into the season, the thing that I felt was going to be a constant was that John Taylor and Jose Mata have to go out there 25 to 30 times a piece. That seems to be a part of our formula. Taylor has pitched really well in the early going. He has been able to locate, move the ball in and out, and get a ground ball. He threw strikes and ended up with five strikeouts."

Taylor said that he appreciates the freedom that Tanner and Coach Jerry Meyers have given him, and that not being on a tight leash gives him the opportunity to improve as a pitcher.

"I always want to start off well, but I have to thank Coach Meyers about that. He gives me a lot of freedom to throw the pitches that I want to throw. He says that I know my pitches than he does, so he wants me to get in a groove and pound the zone."

Up next

South Carolina will return to action on Tuesday night at Carolina Stadium against Furman. They will then begin the big rivalry series with the Clemson Tigers on Friday in Columbia before facing them in Greenville Saturday and finally in Clemson on Sunday.

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