Gamecocks take series

Colby Holmes pitched a gem and South Carolina scored four runs in the fifth inning to beat Tennessee and take the series between the two teams. With the win the Gamecocks stayed in the logjam in the middle of the SEC race.

It took eleventh-ranked South Carolina nine innings to get a clutch hit in Saturday's 2-1 win over Tennessee. It took just five pitches to score four runs Sunday afternoon for the Gamecocks in a 6-1 win to earn the series win over the Volunteers.

"I'm really proud of our guys," head coach Ray Tanner said. "It's been a battle for us. We dug ourselves a hole so it's our fault. Our starting pitching was really good the last two days. Our starters did not issue a walk. That in itself will give you an opportunity to win if you catch it. We didn't get a lot of hits, but I'm really proud of our guys."

After dropping Friday night's contest in the final inning, Carolina came back with their own final inning win Saturday night and used a four-run fifth inning to lead to the comfortable series-winning victory.

"I'm really proud of our guys," Tanner said. "It's been a battle for us. We dug ourselves a hole so it's our fault. Our starting pitching was really good the last two days. Our starters did not issue a walk. That in itself will give you an opportunity to win if you catch it. We didn't get a lot of hits, but I'm really proud of our guys."

The first run in the fifth inning came in on a bases-loaded walk to Tanner English that scored Joey Pankake. Evan Marzilli sent the first pitch he saw deep enough to center for all three runners to advance and give the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead. Adam Matthews pushed a bunt into the gap between the pitcher's mound and first base to score the third run, and then Christian Walker drove in the fourth run on the second pitch he saw with a single into right.

"I saw that the first baseman had moved back, which you would normally do, and Adam is really proficient bunting the ball on the first base side," Tanner said. "I saw it was there and gave him the look at Holbrook put it out there and he executed it perfectly."

The big inning is just what Carolina needed offensively after leaving 15 men on base Saturday night. The Gamecocks left just six on base Sunday.

"Obviously it's something we've been working on and happy to finally come through with," Matthews said. "It's frustrating at times, but this game can be humbling and frustrating. We just have to keep battling and we got them over so we're relieved and hopefully we can continue doing that throughout the rest of the season."

That would be more than enough support for Colby Holmes. Much like Jordan Montgomery shut down the Volunteer offense Saturday night, Holmes did the same Sunday. Holmes would allow leadoff singles in the second, third, and fourth innings but no runner advanced further than second base.

"Seeing a stellar performance from a freshman (Montgomery) like that makes me want to go out and say ‘hey, I can do that,' Holmes said. "I'm an older guy and I can show them that I can do that too. We got a ways to go and we're not as good as we're capable of being, but we're going to get it together."

Chris Fritts would finally get to Holmes in the seventh inning with a one-out solo shot to the left field seats. That would be all Holmes would allow, pitching seven innings and surrendering just one run on four hits and striking out six.

"I was as excited as I was yesterday about Jordan Montgomery's start," Tanner said. "I was equally happy today for Colby. Colby is fighter, but there have been a lot of situations where he's gone 4.1 or 5.1. Sometimes we go and get him because we have guys in the bullpen that we have a lot of confidence in, and it's not so much that we feel like he's done. Today he seemed a lot more comfortable. His pitch count was good. That was important for us. It's nice to see Colby stretch it out a little bit. That was very encouraging for me."

Carolina would add on two insurance runs in the eighth inning. Pankake singled up the middle to score Walker, then Dante Rosenberg hit one to right that Steve Fielder lost in the sun that was ruled an RBI-double.

Matthews and Rosenberg each had a pair of hits to lead the offense and Pankake scored two runs. Evan Beal pitched the last two innings without giving up a hit, walking two and striking out two. With the win Carolina improved to 23-9 overall and 5-7 in conference play. Tennessee dropped to 20-12 and 6-6 in conference play. With Georgia's loss to Arkansas the Gamecocks will be tied with the Bulldogs for fourth in the SEC East. The Gamecocks are just a game behind Tennessee and two behind Florida in the East and are in the middle of a log-jam in the overall standings that determines seeding in the SEC Tournament.

"We knew after the Kentucky weekend that we were playing up hill and we're still playing uphill," Tanner said. "We won our last two series and that's encouraging. It's not going to get any easier but we're hanging in there and other people are coming back to us as well. It's a great conference. I'm glad we're playing a little bit better and winning some games."

South Carolina will host The Citadel on Tuesday night. Tanner said Nolan Belcher or Adam Westmoreland would be the starter, and Joel Seddon could also be in the mix.

SEC Standings

East

Kentucky 9-3
Florida 7-5
Tennessee 6-6
Georgia 5-7
South Carolina 5-7
Vanderbilt 4-8

West

LSU 8-4
Arkansas 7-5
Auburn 6-6
Ole Miss 6-6
Mississippi State 5-7
Alabama 4-8


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