This is Jordan Montgomery's time of year.
The junior left-hander remained perfect in the NCAA Tournament Friday night, pitching top-seeded South Carolina to a 5-2 victory over No. 4 Campbell at Carolina Stadium.
Chad Holbrook and Greg Goff
With the victory, the Gamecocks move into the winner's bracket for the second round and will face Maryland at 7 p.m. Saturday. No. 2 Maryland was a 4-3 winner over Old Dominion Friday afternoon.
After waiting for more than a week to announce Montgomery as the Gamecocks' starter against the Big South Champion Camels, South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook said there was no doubt as to whether he would send his ace to the mound.
"I wanted to put somebody in there that gave us the best chance to win and get off to a good start," Holbrook said. "Not that other guys couldn't, but Jordan's experience level is little bit different than the other guys."
That experience included a 4-0 record in NCAA Tournament play heading into Friday night's game against Campbell. His record is now 5-0 with a 0.93 earned run average. Montgomery's scoreless streak of 27 2/3 innings in the NCAA Tournament ended in the fourth when first baseman Seth LaRue pounded a grooved fastball into the Camels' bullpen in left-centerfield.
The Gamecocks (43-16) spotted Montgomery a 3-0 lead in the first inning, loading the bases on Campbell starter Heath Bowers and pushing the first three batters -- Marcus Mooney, Max Schrock and Joey Pankake -- across for the early lead.
That would be all Montgomery would need, even though Campbell put runners on third base in each of the first two frames. Bowers (10-4) took the loss for the Camels. He lasted 5 2/3 innings and gave up three earned runs on nine hits.
Montgomery's change-up kept Campbell hitters off balance most of the night. "When I have my change-up, I'm able to go deeper into the game," Montgomery said. "It makes my fastball more efficient. When they're looking change-up, I can jam them on the hands. Even if they're looking change-up, they can still ground out."
In addition to Montgomery's nine strikeouts, he also recorded 13 ground-ball outs.
The Gamecocks added two insurance runs in the eighth on Mooney's two-run single to right. Mooney said that hit was a little redemption for an over-aggressive base-running gaffe that cost the Gamecocks at least one run earlier in the game.
"After my base-running blunder earlier that took us out of the inning, I really just wanted to help my team and score some runs," he said. "Coach just told me to look for a slider away and shoot it to right. (Campbell reliever Ryan Thompson) threw it there, and I got a piece on it."
Other than LaRue's home run, Montgomery (8-5) allowed just four hits, struck out nine and walked none. His fifth and final hit allowed came in the top of the ninth on his 116th and last pitch of the night. Reliever Joel Seddon came in the ninth in a non-save situation and recorded the final three outs.
Seth LaRue, Home Run
The question as to whether injured Gamecocks Connor Bright and Max Schrock would return to the lineup was answered. Both players were back and made their presence known, going a combined 4-for-9 at the plate. Schrock (3-for-5) batted second as the designated hitter and scored a run. Bright (1-for-4) batted seventh and played right field. His sixth-inning single was his first base hit since April 19 at Auburn.
MARYLAND 4, OLD DOMINION 3
ODU runner is safe at home
Maryland scored all of its runs over the final two innings of Game 1 to advance in the winner's bracket of the Columbia, S.C., regional. The Terps' 3-run ninth inning proved to be the difference as ODU reliever hit Maryland's Brandon Lowe and Jose Cuas, who went 3-for-4 at the plate, to drive in the game-winning run.
"At the end of the day, when you count up the runs, it's either a win or a loss," Maryland head coach John Szefc said. "Our guys did what they needed to. They've been doing that pretty muchy all through the month of May, so it's really not surprising to me that we won coming from behind. It's been one of our staples in the latter part of the season."
The walk-off hit batsman handed Maryland its first NCAA Tournament win since they last played in the tournament in 1970. Maryland senior Jake Stinnett pitched eight innings, giving up six hits and three earned runs while striking out seven in the no-decision.
Reliever Tayler Stiles (4-2) picked up the win for the Terps after working a scoreless ninth. Gero (3-4) took the loss for the Monarchs. Old Dominion (36-25) will face Campbell (40-20) in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Photos by Burton Fowles