Gamecocks sweep Tide

The Gamecocks (33-11, 14-7) are hitting their stride just in time. With a 9-1 win over Alabama (17-27, 6-14) on Saturday to comple their third straight series sweep, Carolina is just a half game back of Kentucky for first place in the SEC East - a division where not too long ago, at 1-5, they sat in second-to-last.

"We started out, as we all know, in a tough situation…" Coach Ray Tanner said. "We've just battled our way back. You're going to take some punches and you've got to give some. Good things have happened for us. There's been some guys that have stepped up a little bit and as I've said our pitching staff has been consistent."

South Carolina's bats were still scolding hot after a 12-run outburst yesterday. The team scored all nine of its runs in the first five innings, with at least one run in each of them.

A two-out rally in the first inning put the Gamecocks ahead 2-0 to start off. Senior Christian Walker walked, and freshman Grayson Greiner's ninth double of the year scored Walker from 1st. Joey Pankake, another freshman, followed with his team leading 11th two-bagger, which scored Greiner.

In the fourth inning, USC took control. Carolina scored three runs with freshmen Greiner and Pankake right in the middle of the rally again. After Walker drove home the first run of the inning with a single to left, Greiner and Pankake each singled to bring in another run and make it 6-1. Junior LB Dantzler, who hit a solo homer in the third, drove in Greiner on a deep sac fly to make it 7-1.

Greiner and Pankake led the team with two hits a piece, driving in a total of three runs and scoring two as well. Dantzler also drove in two and scored.

"I think we're playing a little bit more confident. Our freshman have gotten some innings, games under their belt. I think their more relaxed," Tanner said.

Junior Patrick Sullivan started on the mound for the first time this year in place of the injured Colby Holmes.

Today, he was just as good with multiple runners on base, but his work was on the pitcher's mound. Sullivan allowed nine base runners in four innings, but allowed just one run to score.

While Sullivan gave Tanner just what was asked of him - an excellent chance to win the game - it was junior Nolan Belcher who earned his fourth win of the year. Belcher relieved Sullivan in the fifth and threw three and a third strong innings. He walked two and gave up one hit, striking out four.

And even though Alabama is in last place in the SEC, Tanner takes nothing away from the quality and importance of another series sweep, especially knowing that the Crimson Tide had won two of its last three SEC series.

"We were catching Alabama when they were playing their best baseball. They were trying to get in a position to play at the end of the year," Tanner said. "We were staring a no-hitter in the face in Game 1. So it was a great weekend for us."

The only negative of Saturday's win for South Carolina was the premature exit of All-American Christian Walker. Walker hurt himself while stretching for a throw at first base from shortstop Joey Pankake in the third inning. He drove in a run the next inning with a single, but hobbled to first and then headed to the dug out. Its been diagnosed as a left hamstring strain. He is day to day.

After a midweek matchup against Davidson on Wednesday, the Gamecocks travel to Fayetteville for a weekend series with the Razorbacks (29-13, 9-10).

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