Carolina tops Manhattan 7-0

Taylor Sewitt and Colby Holmes each put on a pitching clinic Friday evening in the first round game of the Columbia Regional. In the end Holmes was the better pitcher and Carolina was the better team as they took a 7-0 victory against Manhattan. The win sets up a rivalry meeting with Clemson Saturday afternoon.

The feel-good story coming into the Columbia Regional was Taylor Sewitt's performance in the MAAC Tournament, leading his Manhattan team to the MAAC Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. Despite throwing over 250 pitches in the tournament, first year Jaspers coach Jim Duffy decided to ride the horse that got them there in the first game of the Columbia Regional against South Carolina.

The decision nearly paid off.

"Taylor came out and did a good job and threw strikes," Duffy said. "He kept the South Carolina batters at bay and off-balance. The problem is their guy, (Colby) Holmes, matched him. I think if we got Taylor a couple of runs early, the game could've been different."

Sewitt was phenomenal with a fastball that topped out at 82 MPH and change-up that came in as low as 61 MPH, but he had Carolina hitters off-balance all evening. Sewitt carried a no-hitter into the sixth before a Joey Pankake double to the gap in left-center broke it up.

"It was on my mind," Sewitt said of the no-hit attempt. "I knew about it, but I wasn't focusing on throwing a no-hitter. I just tried to put up zeroes as long as I could and keep my team in the game."

Unfortunately for Sewitt and the Jaspers, South Carolina starter Colby Holmes was even better. Holmes nearly pitched the first no-hitter since 1975 for South Carolina, giving up a two-out hit to Joe Rock in the eighth inning to break it up. The Gamecock offense exploded for seven runs in the late innings to give it a 7-0 win to advance to the winner's bracket game. Carolina improved to 41-17 and extended its record NCAA win streak to 17 games. Manhattan falls to 33-26.

"What happened out there tonight was exactly what I anticipated," Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. "We had some time to get some practices in and we kept trying to make them understand what Sewitt was all about. He was as good as advertised. We finally got some runners on there and then he got two outs and it didn't look good. Adam came through with a big hit for us. Colby Holmes was fantastic as well and we needed him to be that good."

In that sixth inning that the Gamecocks finally got to Sewitt, Pankake's double was followed by an Evan Marzilli single. Christian Walker walked to load the bases with no outs, but Sewitt appeared to look like he was going to get out of it. He got LB Dantzler to pop up to the catcher, pinch-hitter Michael Roth went down looking, but Adam Matthews would not let the inning slip away. Matthews sent a 3-1 fastball through the hole on the left side of the infield, scoring Pankake and Marzilli. Tanner English followed that with a triple off the glove of right fielder Joe Rock, giving Carolina a 4-0 lead after six. Sewitt would leave after the inning, replaced by Mike Giordano.

"I figured he was going to come at me," Matthews said. "He threw me a 2-0 fastball right down the middle and then threw a slider away for ball three. I knew he was going to come at me."

Carolina would strike for three more in the eighth. Walker led off the inning with a homerun to left and Matthews would drive in his third run of the game for the 6-0 lead. Vergason followed with an RBI double for the final margin.

Even with the late breakout of runs for Carolina and Sewitt's performance, the story of the day was Holmes. The only thing that could stop Holmes was the weather delay of that halted the game for 1:24 in the bottom of the eighth.

"I knew Manhattan was a good team," Holmes said. "I had my slider and fastball working. I was getting ahead with my fastball and getting them out with the slider. Everything was feeling great tonight."

Holmes finished the night going eight innings, giving up just the one hit, no walks, one hit batter, and had a career-high nine strikeouts to improve to 7-1 on the year. That followed a dismal performance in last week's SEC Tournament against Florida.

"It was great to come out the gate and be effective and be on top of my game," Holmes said. "The outing in Hoover (SEC Tournament) was disappointing, but coming out and doing what I did put the confidence back in me."

Matthews led the Gamecock offense, going 2-for-4 with three RBI, English was 1-for-4 with two RBI, and Walker and Vergason each drove in one run. Nick Camastro was 1-for-4 and Rock was 1-for-3 for Manhattan. Sewitt lost for just the second time this season, falling to 11-2.

With the win, Carolina moves on to face Clemson at 4:00 Saturday afternoon. Clemson defeated Coastal 11-3 in the Friday's first game.

"Every baseball fan in the state of South Carolina is going to get what they want," Walker said. "They're a good team and want to win and take us down."

While the atmosphere will be electric, the teams will have to try and settle down and play the game.

"You have to approach it that they won the first game and we won our first game, let's go play," Tanner said. "But who are we kidding? It's big. It's a rivalry situation. It's more than just the second of the NCAA. It's Clemson. We're playing Clemson. It is what it is, but I think it's great. Coach Leggett and I talked a little last night. We like this. Whether I get beat or he gets beat, if you said we can play a seven-game set, we would enjoy that. Now we wouldn't enjoy all of this (media attention), but we would enjoy that. There's been a time or two along the way when emotions got in the way, but at the end of the day it's been a great rivalry, one of the best in college baseball."

Michael Roth will get the start for the Gamecocks, but Clemson coach Jack Leggett didn't name a starter following their victory.

"You feel like you give it your best shot. That's the thing. I have confidence in a lot of guys, but certainly what Michael's done in his career here, if you can line them up, that's as good as it gets. Win, lose or draw, we're sending our guy with the best mentality, the best toughness and poise. That's all you can ask."

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