Westmoreland shuts down Georgia State

The weather outside might have been cold, but South Carolina reliever Adam Westmoreland was red-hot. The freshman lefty held the Georgia State offense at bay as USC improved to 5-0. For more details read inside.


The South Carolina bats only scored two runs, both coming on a home run in the first inning. But for Gamecock relief pitcher Adam Westmoreland, that was all the offense he would need.

The 280 lb. left hander from Brookland-Cayce High School came on in relief of starter Blake Cooper in the fourth inning and threw up six straight innings of scoreless baseball as No. 18 USC (5-0) held on for a close 2-0 win over Georgia State (6-2).

"We got on the board quickly and that was it for both teams the rest of the day. They ended up getting one more hit than we did. I was obviously pleased with Blake Cooper's start and what Adam was able to do in relief," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "I really wanted Adam to experience what he had to go through there at the end tonight."

Cooper, the traditional Sunday starter, got the starting nod in a predetermined split, meaning two other pitchers would need to come into the game and he could be the pitcher of record.

The right hander got off to a rocky start as he hit leadoff batter Nick Hogan on the first pitch of the game. But from there Cooper settled in and struck out two of the next three batters he faced to hold the Panther offense in check.

Carolina's run support came early in the game as Jackie Bradley Jr. led off the game with a single to right field bringing centerfielder Whit Merrifield to the plate. On the first pitch of his at-bat, Merrifield cranked a shot to left centerfield as the Gamecocks would score their only runs of the day.

"I've definitely put on some pounds and gotten a little stronger. It was just a matter of time before I got one," Merrifield said. "For our pitching staff to do what they did is just remarkable. These are the kind of games you've got to win."

While the offense was less than stellar, it gave the pitching staff just enough to work with. Aside from giving up a single in the first at-bat of the second inning, Cooper made the most of his predetermined limited work, going three innings and allowing just the one hit and one walk while striking out five guys.

"Coach asked me if I wanted to pitch live or just throw a bullpen, so I wanted to pitch live since it's been a week and half since I've been (on) the mound. They just told me to go out and throw as long I can for 40-45 pitches, so that's what happened," Cooper said.

That opened the door for Westmoreland who had been told earlier in the day to be ready for long relief. With a 2-0 lead in place, he went to work on the Panther batting order, getting two of the first three batters he faced to strike out. However, he also gave up two singles and put runners at first and second with two outs in the fourth inning. But a tapper back to the mound resulted in a quick toss to first to end the threat.

The Panthers managed to put a runner on first base in all but one of their innings against Westmoreland, but each time he kept the game in control. The only real trouble came in the sixth when an error by Andrew Crisp allowed the leadoff hitter Bradley Logan to reach first base. Though he went on to strike out the next two batters, Westmoreland issued a walk to Carl Moniz to put runners at first and second yet again. But a sharply hit ball by Chris Hallum to Crisp went for the easy toss to first to end the threat.

"I felt I could but I didn't know as far as pitch count goes how far they were going to let me go. I was excited," Westmoreland said. "As it kept going I felt better and better. I kind of just asked them, could I keep going until he felt I was done and he just said keep going."

In total, Westmoreland finished his six innings of work by giving up four hits and two walks but struck out a career and team season high eight batters as he picked up his first win. Not too bad for a guy whose relief effort lasted 103 pitches.

That work, Tanner says, has made him a candidate for mid-week starter as the season progresses.

"We feel our staff has come a long ways, and we feel that we have a good chance to be really good as a staff and as a whole," Westmoreland said. "Everybody's kind of starting to fulfill their roles and know what to do and how to do it. It's coming along really good."


NOTES:

- Cooper and Westmoreland combined for 13 strikeouts, the most in a game for USC this season.

- First baseman Jeffery Jones has now hit safely in each of the first five games.

- USC has a home run in each of the five games they have played this season.

- It was the first time this season USC has been out hit. Georgia State beat Carolina in that stat 5-4.

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