USC starting pitcher Steven Neff earned the victory, allowing just one earned run on four hits, two strikeouts and no walks in 5 1/3 innings of work. The win moved the junior to 2-0 on the season. Jonathan Montoya, the quirky 5'7" left-hander that gave South Carolina fits early with his very deliberate release, took the loss for the Roadrunners.
"I was extremely happy with Neff's outing today," said USC head coach Ray Tanner. "I thought he had good stuff and we played great defense behind him. When he was in there he only gave up four hits. We made a couple of nice plays defensively to keep them from getting going offensively."
After a scoreless battle through the first three innings, Cal State Bakersfield drew first blood for the second straight night. The Gamecocks quickly answered, though, with an offensive eruption in the bottom frame after stranding their first five runners.
Jake Williams led the charge with a shot to left-field on a 1-0 pitch. USC catcher Robert Beary, who started the day with a .118 average, advanced Williams on a short blooper on the head of the second baseman. Beary finished with two hits and two runs scored on the night. After Peter Mooney and Scott Wingo both fell into fielder's choice plays, Evan Marzilli hit a clutch 2-out shot to right field that scored Carolina's first run.
Wingo held up at third on Marzilli's shot and later scored on a wild pitch to give USC a lead it wouldn't relinquish. All of South Carolina's nine clustered hits came without extra bases but the Gamecocks still found a way to produce runs.
Tanner said his team's sluggish start could have been a mixture of the "new bat era" and Montoya's ability to keep the Gamecocks on their toes.
"He's a guy that's hard to square up. I know it wasn't his best best; he had too many today (seven in five innings)," said Tanner. "He's one of those pitchers that just doesn't give you much. I don't think it was a poor day for us offensively. I think you have to give Montoya credit for not allowing us to have that big inning."
Nevertheless, the Gamecocks continued to find a way to capitalize on Montoya's seldom mistakes.
Junior Adam Matthews worked a walk to kept the inning going with Carolina searching for more insurance as its leader Jackie Bradley, Jr. came to the plate. Facing a 2-out wedge with runners on the corners, Gamecock leader Jackie Bradley, Jr. came through again against the Roadrunners. Bradley, Jr. sliced a single pass the second baseman that scored Marzilli. Christian Walker's strikeout ended the inning.
Ahead 3-1, Neff made matters interesting by hitting two batters in the fifth inning but was rescued by a double play ball to Wingo at second. Adrian Morales drew a lead-off walk in the bottom frame and scored on Peter Mooney's infield hit. Robert Beary also worked a walk and reached home on Wingo's RBI hit to left field as the Gamecocks tacked on their final insurance run.
South Carolina went to its bullpen in the sixth inning as Logan Munson, John Taylor, Bryan Harper, and Matt Price, saw action on the mound to wear down the Roadrunners. Price earned his fifth save on the season.
Cal State Bakersfield's meaningless run in the eighth inning came on Jeremy Rodriguez's single to left field off Taylor that scored Tyler Shryock from third.
With conference action looming next week, Bradley, Jr. was simply relieved to just grind out another win.
"Once again, the pitching gave us a chance to win by limiting runners on base and scoring opportunities," said Bradley, Jr. "We were able to capitalize when we need to and that's what good ball teams do."
The two teams will meet Sunday in the series finale at 1:30 p.m. as the Gamecocks go for a sweep and remain perfect at home. Tyler Webb (2-0 1.10 ERA) will get the start for South Carolina.
Gamecocks take game two, 5-2
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