Gamecocks sweep Princeton

Erik Payne hit his first career homerun and a double to drive in another run to lead South Carolina to a 3-1 victory over Princeton in the series finale Sunday afternoon. With the win the Gamecocks improve to 13-1 on the season. Six Carolina pitchers combined to strike out 15 batters.

Sunday's season finale was much like the series opener, a pitching duel, this time between South Carolina's Colby Holmes and Princeton's Matt Bowman. Holmes went five innings, giving up four hits, no runs, six strikeouts and one walk. Bowman would give up just five hits, but three of those hits would turn into Gamecock runs as Carolina beat the Tigers 3-1 Sunday afternoon to earn the series sweep. Carolina improved to 13-1 on the season while Princeton fell to 2-5.

"It was a great weekend for us," Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. "We played a team that we knew was going to be very good; they can pitch, play defense, and have some guys that can hit. Our pitching staff did a tremendous job on the weekend; bunch of strikeouts and very few walks against a team that we fully expect to be a postseason team at the end of the year."

Erik Payne finished off his weekend with a bang, going 2-for-3 with his first collegiate homerun and also had a double, and drove in two runs to lead the Gamecocks offensively.

"He did a pretty god job," Tanner said. "We needed everything he did with the homerun and double."

"The more at bats you get the more comfortable you get," Payne said. "I think that's helped some; having consecutive days of seeing the baseball."

After giving up two hits in the top of the first, Holmes would settle down in the second and third inning. Meanwhile, Bowman had retired the first seven batters he faced until Payne stepped to the plate. Payne got a pitch he liked and sent it onto the concourse behind the left field fence to give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead.

Holmes would have to dance out of trouble in the third. After a leadoff walk and Sam Mulroy double, Holmes struck out Steve Harrington and Ryan Albert and induced a pop up in foul territory of the bat of Jonathan York to dance out of trouble.

"Seeing the defense was back gave me some confidence that if they hit it they have more time to field it and throw them out," Holmes said. "I know the umpire was giving me some calls on the outside part of the plate so I just stayed there and he stayed with me."

Meanwhile, Bowman appeared to be cruising along after retiring the next five batters he faced after the Payne homerun. Kyle Martin would get the second hit of the game for the Gamecocks with a leadoff double that one-hopped the wall in right to start the fifth. Sean Sullivan bunted Martin to third and Grayson Greiner drove him home with a sacrifice fly to left to give the Gamecocks a 2-1 lead.

Nolan Belcher came in to pitch for Holmes but gave up bomb off the bat of Sam Mulroy sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts. After giving a two-out single to Ryan Albert and allowing him to move up to second on a wild pitch, his day came to a close. Side-armed Hunter Privette came in to strike out York to end the inning.

Bowman continued to show signs of fatigue in the sixth, but would wiggle out of a jam. A one-out single by Evan Marzilli – who extending his on-base streak to 14 in 14 games this season – and a walk to Tanner English had the Gamecocks looking to get that insurance run back. Christian Walker flew out to center to allow the runners to advance, but Bowman got LB Dantzler to ground into the shift to end the inning.

"At times we get a little impatient offensively, but today with Bowman out there he was very good," Tanner said. "That young man can pitch. He knows how to locate change-up and breaking balls. I was very impressed. It was one of those days that I wasn't too upset with the hitters because it was tough to get hacks. We hit a couple of balls pretty good and didn't have anything to show for it. He did a tremendous job keeping us off the board."

Carolina would add that extra insurance run in the seventh on Payne's RBI double to drive in Joey Pankake, who pinch ran for Kyle Martin. Tyler Webb, Forrest Koumas, and Evan Beal combined to pitch the final 2.2 innings without allowing a runner to reach base. Beal would get the final three outs for his second save of the season.

"We like our pitching staff from a standpoint that they are pretty good and that we can match up and that's exactly what happened today," Tanner said. "It's not going to work out perfect all of the time but at least we have an answer and can do some things to counter a situation in the game. If we can get five or six innings out of our starter then there's four or five other guys that can finish the game in one capacity or another. That's what happened today; we just kept matching them. We didn't have any cushion to play with for sure and were able to get a few outs. Webb did a nice job, Privette gets in there and gets his two guys. We would like to be more offensive for them, but our pitching staff gives us a chance to win."

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