Over the past eight days, the South Carolina Gamecocks have elevated their level of play significantly, recovering from series losses to East Carolina and Clemson to reel off victories and head into the SEC schedule with momentum on their side.
It was a tough effort against a gritty Davidson team that has come close against SEC competition this year, but has yet to pull through with a win.
"Davidson has a good club; they came in here 11-5," said Coach Tanner after the win. "They went down to Auburn, lost a couple games by a run. They've done a good job and they've swung the bats well, I think they were hitting about .325 as a team, and we struck out 14 or 15 guys. Our pitchers did a nice job."
It didn't take the Gamecocks long to get started on offense against Davidson after scoring 15 runs on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, it was 2 first inning runs, as Kyle Enders and Nick Ebert each contributed RBI singles to lead 2-0 off Davidson starter Chris Lamb.
If Tuesday was an offensive showcase for the Carolina bats, Wednesday was a showcase for the arms, as six Carolina pitchers combined to strike out 15 Wildcats.
"Our pitching was good," said Tanner. "We only allowed three runs. We used a bunch of guys. We wanted to use those guys, and it worked out pretty well for us."
After Evan Marzilli struck out to lead off the 2nd inning, Scott Wingo got his 3rd career triple, followed by a double from Whit Merrifield. The Gamecocks added a run when Whit Merrifield scored on a wild pitch, making the Carolina lead 4-0 through 2 innings.
Wingo finished the game 3-4, scoring 2 runs and finishing just a homer short of the cycle.
Davidson cut halfway through the South Carolina lead with some key 2 out hitting in the top of the 4th. Gadaire reached on an error, and Weiss tallied a single before two outs were recorded by Holmes. A 3-2 pitch to Piacenza missed, loading the bases with a walk. Berman also ran the count full before delivering a two out single to right to plate 2 runs and make the score 4-2 Gamecocks through 3.5 innings.
The Gamecocks added one run in the 4th after Marzilli was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. It wwas his third time being hit in the past 2 games. Two batters later it was Merrifield moving him over with a double, and Marzilli scored on a Morales groundout to shortstop.
Marzilli was starting in place of injured Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field, but Bradley Jr. would come on to play defense in the top of the 9th, as he continues to recover from stitches in his hand. Tanner described Bradley as "probable for Friday" but ultimately said he wasn't sure at the moment.
Gamecock pitchers ended up striking out the side in the top of the 7th, but not before Sam Payne hit his 4th home run of the year to close the margin to 7-3. Payne hit a high fly ball to right field that just carried over the fence for the big fly.
It was one of the few bright spots for Davidson offensively, who could never recover from the strikeouts, or build on 2 runs scored in the top of the 4th.
Wingo led off the 7th with a hard double off the wall in right, and then was bunted over by Merrifield before scoring on a suicide squeeze from Morales. It was an exciting and risky play for the Gamecocks, as the ball popped up as Wingo was dashing home on the suicide squeeze, but it went just past Sliwiak for the final run of the game.
Tanner said that his team was searching for any way possible to score runs, as a power drought has caused some concern about the offense heading into the conference schedule.
"Runs were at a premium," said Tanner. "The ball wasn't carrying (and) we haven't hit any home runs anyway. I was just trying to take advantage of getting some runs when we could. We've been doing that a little bit, forcing the action."
In addition to Wingo's strong game, Whit Merrifield tied a career high with 3 hits in his first 3 plate appearances, finishing 3-4 on the night, scoring 2 runs for USC.
Nick Ebert was 2-5 with 2 RBI in the game, as Tanner said he was still "fighting his way back" but has "made some progress."
Freshman pitcher Colby Holmes turned in a strong performance through 4 innings, striking out 6 while allowing no earned runs. Holmes had come into the game with a 15.00 ERA in 4 appearances on the year.
"I thought Colby did a good job," noted Tanner. He got his breaking ball over at times, he threw some really good breaking balls, some changeups to lefties, and his velocity was pretty good. I probably didn't get him out soon enough but I thought it was a good start for us."
However, it was Jose Mata who picked up the win for the Gamecocks, as he threw 1.2 innings of scoreless relief. Mata was followed in the game by a platoon of Revan, Carter, Roth, and Bangs to close the contest out.
Now the long haul through a 30 game SEC schedule begins. But according to at least one player, the Gamecocks are completely prepared for the challenge ahead of them.
"When conference play starts, that's when you step it up a notch, and I think we'll do that, I think we're ready," said Wingo. "We're ready for Tennessee."
Friday's game against the Vols will begin at 7 p.m.
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