Gamecocks come back from 2-0 deficit in win
Carrying a four-game SEC losing streak into the series opener against Texas A&M, coach Chad Holbrook said Thursday’s contest was not just another game for his South Carolina baseball team, as it looked to get back on a winning track.
“It was a very big win for us coming off of last weekend,” Holbrook said. “This one was probably a tad bit more important.”
No. 14 South Carolina was able to beat the Aggies 3-2 on the heels of a sixth-inning comeback after getting no hits through five innings of play.
The rally was sparked by a LB Dantzler double off the right field fence that drove in two runs.
As Holbrook has said throughout the season, he looks for Dantzler to use the whole field when he’s at the plate, and the game-tying shot to left field was proof to Holbrook that his first baseman has been listening.
“That was a big two-strike swing,” Holbrook said. “It was a big swing of the bat against a good guy.”
The winning run came in the seventh on a fielder’s choice play off the bat of junior outfielder Graham Saiko that drove in the go-ahead run. Saiko’s game-winning RBI came in his first game back from a wrist injury that sidelined him for the entire Arkansas series last weekend.
Holbrook admitted to being nervous as USC remained hitless through five, but he commended his team for its resiliency.
“It didn’t look good there for a while,” Holbrook said. “But we found a way to scratch there in the sixth.”
South Carolina’s pitching staff on Thursday got off to a slow start, as sophomore Evan Beal allowed six hits in 3 1/3 innings pitched. Senior Adam Westmoreland relieved Beal in the fourth and would prove to be the spark the Gamecocks needed, matching his season-high with seven strikeouts en route to his second win of the season.
“It feels great to just go out and try to get ahead of hitters, throw strikes and keep us in the game and get us a chance to win,” Westmoreland said. “Let our offense work and just try to throw strikes and let our defense work behind us.”
After a rocky tenure at USC in terms of his personal life and his injury history, Westmoreland is experiencing a career season with two wins, two saves and a 0.67 ERA.
Holbrook said he is happy for his middle reliever on a personal level, and has seen his Gamecock bullpen become a “very formidable” asset to the team with Westmoreland’s improved play.
“It looks like it’s all coming together for (Westmoreland) right now,” Holbrook said. “He’s a darn good kid, a big ol’ teddy bear, and he’s competing his rear end off out there and I’m happy for him.”
With Westmoreland picking up the win, Tyler Webb came in to earn his ninth save of the season behind four strikeouts, dropping his ERA to 0.82.
Holbrook admitted Thursday’s win was an ugly one, but he said his players needed the victory and he was happy his team was able to complete the comeback.
“We didn’t necessarily perform very well offensively,” Holbrook said. “But we found a way to win and that’s a credit to our guys.”